Infiltrating the Interior: the New York Art World and the Concept of the Decorative, 1860-1910


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art


In the late nineteenth century, people in the United States and other Western nations were consumed by a decorative "craze." Fine artists played a large role in that phenomenon, designing and producing scores of decorative objects and interiors. The literature covering this branch of artistic production in America is substantial. However, no one has yet conducted a rigorous examination of what "decorative" as a term and ideology, underpinning a variety of stylistic trends, meant to American fine artists as a group. My dissertation begins to fill that gap, investigating the ways in which definitions and uses of the decorative were caught up in New York artists' and other art world members' attempts at professional and personal identity-craft, as well as their struggles for social status.