Art for art’s sake and women’s fancywork

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A couple of days ago I posted on art for art’s sake and what the point of my quilts was.  If you were interested in that debate, you might be interested in the following quotation from Constance Classen’s book on touch.  She is describing the dismissive account of Dorothy Nevill’s craftwork.  Nevill was a Victorian craftworker:

While no one expects art to be useful, women’s work can still be condemned as frivolous if it has no practical function.  Particularly ironic is the fact that, while Nevill is presented as a ‘master’ of her craft, her mastery turns out to be worthless as her craft is deemed to be useless.  Indeed, to be a ‘master’ of ‘fancywork’ appears ridiculous as it unites the notion of masculine artistic dominion with the practice of a trivial feminine pastime.

Classen, C. (2005) ‘Feminine tactics: Crafting an alternative aesthetics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’ in C. Classen (ed) The Book of Touch.  London: Berg.  228-239.

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I was reading the book for a paper I am writing on touch.  I am often struck by the coincidences in research – reading a book for an entirely different reason suddenly throws up a thought on another quite different project, but in a weirdly timely way.  Classen’s book has lots of very short, interesting and well-chosen pieces on touch in a variety of forms, and is much more approachable than a lot of the strictly phenomenological works on the subject that are around.

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