Dissertation Discussion: Nelleke

What is the working title of your dissertation?

Currently my working title is ‘“Embroidered in Dyes”: Fabrics and Fashions by the Footprints Textile Printing Workshop in London 1925–1939’.

What led you to choose this subject?

Our amazing tutor Rebecca Arnold informed me about the Joyce Clissold and Footprints archive at the Central Saint Martins because she knew I am particularly interested in textiles and the making of dress. I visited this archive in February and immediately fell in love with the Footprints designs and Joyce Clissold’s work as a designer-craftswoman. I especially appreciate the broad perspective on fashion that the archive gave me, as it contains a wide range of objects that illustrate the diverse processes of designing, making, advertising and retailing of fabrics as well as garments. In the course of the research process, I became more and more intrigued by the creative activity of the many individuals and loosely knit groups of craftsmen and -women in London in the 1920s and 1930s. It would be a dream to continue my research in this exciting field.

Figure 2: Footprints blouse from the Joyce Clissold / Footprints collection at Central Saint Martins

Favorited book/article you’ve read for your dissertation so far and why?

I could spend hours at the British Library reading the beautifully-designed journal The Town Crier. Issued by the Merchant Adventurers in London from 1921, this journal was full of interesting crafts-related articles and advertisements, as well as for instance job requests and vacancies by or aimed at established or aspiring craftspeople. The journal was printed on this nice, thick paper. I enjoy just leafing through it, read all the fun ads, and explore interwar London in my mind.

Figure 3: Two pages from the January 1926 edition of The Town Crier.

Favorited image/object in your dissertation and why?

I think I already gave my favourite images away in my last blog, as I love both the cover of the Footprints leaflet and the photograph of Joyce Clissold wearing a scarf of her own design.

But perhaps I can share my favourite ‘object’ with you. It is a reference in British Vogue’s 17 May 1933 issue to the Footprints shop that was located in New Bond Street. After spending almost two days at the British Library, leafing page-by-page through 1930s issues without any previous indication or even guarantee that I would find anything relating to Footprints, I could hardly suppress my euphoria when I actually found a short reference in the magazine’s regular shopping column. I felt like a kind of dress historian-detective…

Favorited place to work?

The most beautiful place to work is the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is my dream library. It reminds me of that library in Disney’s animated film Beauty and the Beast. But I also enjoy drinking coffee whilst working, for which I often go to Bloomsbury Coffee House at Tavistock Place.

By Nelleke Honcoop

MA Documenting Fashion visits the Courtauld’s Prints and Drawings Collection

Our Documenting Fashion MA class recently visited the Courtauld’s Prints and Drawings study room. Our class theme that day was ‘Modernity,’ and we were focusing on texts by Charles Baudelaire to explain the shift towards modernism, and how it impacted both art and the representation of dress. The Courtauld’s Prints and Drawings room houses approximately 7000 drawings and watercolours, and 26000 prints ranging from the Middle Ages up to the twentieth century. The prints, drawings and paintings we were studying on this visit were mostly from the late nineteenth century, around the same time that Baudelaire was writing about modernism.

It was interesting to view the shift in that period in respect to the representation of women, class and their dress, but most notably the techniques of depiction. Whereas earlier paintings which we viewed strived to be more realistic in both colour and shape, the later drawings seemed to be more relaxed, with free flowing lines and unaltered black ink. In ‘The Modern Public and Photography,’ Baudelaire discusses dreams and reality in relation to both photography and painting, and is against taking either at face value as real life: “The painter is becoming more and more inclined to paint, not what he dreams, but what he sees. And yet it is a happiness to dream, and it used to be an honour to express what one dreamed.” In the study room, a portrait of Lady Adelaide Stanhope by Alfred Edward Chalon was on display next to Paul Cézanne’s sketch of Hortense Fiquet. Completed circa 1880, Cézanne’s graphite drawing was done a few decades later than Chalon’s and it certainly shows a difference in their techniques. Lady Adelaide’s portrait is in colour and is extremely detailed – her hair and the textures of her dress are what some would call ‘realistic,’ whereas Madame Cézanne is compositionally incomplete, with many large blank spaces and ‘unfinished’ shading. In this example, it is the viewer who dreams and fills in the missing elements of the picture.

[Left] Lady Adelaide Stanhope by Alfred Edward Chalon
[Right} Madame Cézanne by Paul Cézanne, 1880.

Another example we viewed of these new techniques in depicting reality was Edouard Manet’s 1871 La queue devant La Boucherie. The etching effectively shows people queuing for food in Paris, whilst remaining open in shape and form. The umbrellas highlight the shapes in the image, whilst simultaneously forming the outline of the unified yet fleeting crowd. As Baudelaire notes about one of his subjects in ‘The Painter of Modern Life,’ “he is the painter of the passing moment and of all the suggestions of eternity that it contains.” For Baudelaire, modernity is ephemeral and contingent on the times. It is up to the painter, the drawer or the photographer to capture these moments, in order for us to observe them and their many differences, as we did in the Prints and Drawings study room.

By Grace Lee

To book a visit to the Courtauld Prints and Drawings study room, visit http://courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/collection/drawings-prints/prints-and-drawings-study-room

Bibliography

Baudelaire, Charles, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, (London: Phaidon, 1964)

Baudelaire, Charles, ‘The Modern Public and Photography’, in Alan Trachtenberg, ed., Classis Essays on Photography, (New Haven: Leete’s Island Books, 1980), pp. 83-89

Dissertation Discussion: Harriet

Spot the illicit San Pellegrino

What is your title?

Something along the lines of  ‘Capturing Fashion at Work: Mark Shaw’s behind-the-scenes images of the Paris collections for LIFE magazine in the 1950s’

What prompted you to choose this subject?

Our tutor Dr Rebecca Arnold’s fondness for the work of American designer Claire McCardell (you may thank her for ballet flats, spaghetti straps, separates…) led me to a fine art and textile collaboration she worked on (Picasso prints!) which was photographed for LIFE in the mid-Fifties by Mark Shaw. The Mark Shaw Archive recently popped up on Instagram (@markshawofficial / @markshawlondonsydney), and scrolling through his work – snapshots of Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy amongst the images – I discovered and became mildly obsessed with his images of models prepping for fashion shows. Amazingly few people have studied backstage images – these days they’re a mainstay of Instagram and Vogue Runway reports during fashion week.

Looking up at the lilac tree

Most interesting research find thus far?

Speaking to Mark Shaw’s daughter in law Juliet across the pond in Vermont and meeting his grandson Hunter in London. Juliet kindly sent me scanned film and contact sheets to pore over – a game changer. Coming across a key quote by Baudelaire (who famously coined the slippery term ‘modernity’) one grey day in the British Library got me pretty excited (#nerdalert).

Favourite place to work?

The National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum for its sheer opulence, or at home in my south London garden in the dappled light beneath the lilac tree. Most libraries don’t allow food or drink, and some days the need for constant cups of tea (and a visiting fellow art historian with a pair of puppies) wins out.

Puppy stress therapy