University of Bristol
Supervised by Dr Grace Brockington, University of Bristol, and Dr Emma Chambers, Curator Modern British Art, Tate Britain
October 2016 –

Dame Ethel Walker, ‘Decoration: The Excursion of Nausicaa’ 1920
Dame Ethel Walker
Decoration: The Excursion of Nausicaa 1920
© Tate

The years between 1880 and 1918 were a period in which women artists exercised increasing authority. Formal art education became available to them, and art clubs, groups and societies began to admit them as members. The period also witnessed the growth of women-only arts organisations, while female artists found new creative outlets through their involvement in campaigns for suffrage and international movements. This AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award seeks to ascertain how, during an era when women continued to experience political disenfranchisement, they successfully navigated the systems of a male-dominated art world, exploiting the new professional opportunities that were available to them.

Since the early 1970s there has been an acknowledgement of the lack of knowledge about the careers and artistic production of women that has severely limited our ability to display and acquire their work. While previous literature on British art in the period 1880–1918 consists largely of biographies and surveys of male-dominated groups that present women as singular followers of men, this project aims to strengthen the position of women artists in art-historical discourse by situating their careers within the wider cultural networks of the day. Evidence for their inclusion in (and exclusion from) the art establishment will be sought in materials held in the Tate Archive, including those relating to exhibiting societies and galleries such as the Carfax Gallery, Goupil Galleries, New English Art Club, Camden Town Group, Bloomsbury Group and London Group. The project will address the significant gap in women’s art in museum collections and aims to draw out new narratives about little known or under-recognised women artists who worked across a range of disciplines, thus contributing to a deeper and more inclusive understanding of the art world between 1880 and 1918.