Fashionability, Exhibition Culture and Gender Politics: Fair Women, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Fashionability, Exhibition Culture and Gender Politics

Fair Women, 1st Edition

By Meaghan Clarke


256 pages | 27 Color Illus. | 50 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138493568
pub: 2020-06-22
Available for pre-order. Item will ship after 22nd June 2020

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Fair Women was an early example of a Victorian ‘blockbuster’ exhibition. Organised by a committee of women, it opened to great fanfare in the Grafton Galleries in London, and comprised both historical and contemporary portraits of women as well as decorative objects.

Meaghan Clarke argues that the exhibition challenged contemporary assumptions about the representation of women and the superficiality of female collectors. The Fair Women phenomenon complicated gender stereotypes and foregrounded women as cultural arbiters. This book uncovers a wide range of texts and images to reveal that Fair Women brought together fashion, modernity and gender politics in new and surprising ways. It shows that, while invariably absent in institutional histories, women were vital to the development of the modern blockbuster exhibition.

This book will be of interest to scholars in art and gender studies, museum studies, feminist art history, women artists, and art history.


"A timely and substantial exploration of the display of fashion and the decorative arts in modern exhibition culture."

- Lara Perry, University of Brighton

Table of Contents

Part I The Exhibition; 1. Exhibiting Fair Women; 2. ‘Feminine weapons’: Women, Collecting and Connoisseurship; Part II Modern Fair Women; 3. Performing the Modern Woman: Actresses, Celebrity Culture and Exhibitions; 4. (Re)envisioning New Women: Eveleen Myers and Gertrude Campbell; Part III Fair Women Redux; 5. Re-inventing Fair Women: Women, Exhibitions and Art Writing; 6. International Fair Women; Epilogue

About the Author

Meaghan Clarke is Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Sussex.

About the Series

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700-1950

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting provides a forum for the broad study of object acquisition and collecting practices in their global dimensions from 1700 to 1950. The series seeks to illuminate the intersections between material culture studies, art history, and the history of collecting. It takes as its starting point the idea that objects both contributed to the formation of knowledge in the past and likewise contribute to our understanding of the past today. The human relationship to objects has proven a rich field of scholarly inquiry, with much recent scholarship either anthropological or sociological rather than art historical in perspective. Underpinning this series is the idea that the physical nature of objects contributes substantially to their social meanings, and therefore that the visual, tactile, and sensual dimensions of objects are critical to their interpretation. This series therefore seeks to bridge anthropology and art history, sociology and aesthetics. It encompasses the following areas of concern: 1. Material culture in its broadest dimension, including the high arts of painting and sculpture, the decorative arts (furniture, ceramics, metalwork, etc.), and everyday objects of all kinds. 2. Collecting practices, be they institutionalized activities associated with museums, governmental authorities, and religious entities, or collecting done by individuals and social groups. 3. The role of objects in defining self, community, and difference in an increasingly international and globalized world, with cross-cultural exchange and travel the central modes of object transfer. 4. Objects as constitutive of historical narratives, be they devised by historical figures seeking to understand their past or in the form of modern scholarly narratives. The series publishes interdisciplinary and comparative research on objects that addresses one or more of these perspectives and includes monographs, thematic studies, and edited volumes of essays.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Collections, Catalogs, Exhibitions / General
ART / History / General
ART / European
ART / History / Romanticism
ART / Subjects & Themes / Portraits
ART / Museum Studies
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies