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"The Role of Women in Decorative Arts and Design in France (1850 to the Present)", International Conference, Institut national d'histoire de l'art, June 20, 2024

Categories: French, History
Event Date: 2024-06-20 Abstract Due: 2024-02-23

Women played an important role in the history of decorative arts and design. Recent exhibitions (Here We Are! Women in Design 1900 – Today at the Vitra Museum in 2021 and Parall(elles): A History of Women in Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2023) displayed an overall approach of the question. But in some countries as France, what is the state of the issues and how is the contribution of women to be placed in this general context? The role of women in design and decorative arts in France is essential but it is best known through brilliant individuals, particularly in fashion (Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin...) and textiles (Hélène Henry, Sonia Delaunay...), and to a lesser extent in interior decoration and furniture (Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand). Beyond their signatures and personal trajectories, it remains difficult to understand the role that they played in French design and Decorative Arts during the 20th century and the mechanisms that allowed them to reaffirm their input and develop their careers. If the representation of women in fashion design is significant and apparently less important in decoration, do such discrepancies reflect accurate levels of feminization which look to be different depending on the professions? Thus, because there were few women as decorators in the 19th century would explain why the profession was less feminized in the 20th century while couture traditionally employed more women. It would then simply be a form of social reproduction. However, if we take a closer look at the question one would observe, for example, that decoration workshops in the department stores in France during the interwar period employed a large number of women, just as historically the painting workshop of the Sevres porcelain manufacture. Other factors, which are perhaps linked to parameters of historical sociology or even to the evolution of design education, still need to be clarified. This conference aims to discuss and to provide a state of research on the question but also to shed light on an aspect of artistic creation. It aims also to give an overview of the evolution and role of women in the decorative arts and design in France since the mid-19th century, in order to complete a current knowledge related to an ongoing field of research in the history of art and creative industries. In this purpose, the call is also opened to a cross-analyze of the problematic through papers addressing the role of female designers in other countries, particularly in Europe, in order to better understand and to deepen the issue in France from an international perspective.

International conference organized by Prof. Stéphane Laurent, University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and Dr. Delphine Girard, Historian of Design and Decorative Arts.

Paper submissions in French or English will be sent in Word format no later than Friday 23 February 2024 to stephane.laurent@univ-paris1.fr and del.girard@wanadoo.fr. They will not exceed 500 words and will include in addition a short biography of 150 words.


Stephane LAURENT