1930s women

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Eve’s Glory series by A. Tamboly

A hundred years after the First World War, modern women demonstrate military prestige by donning vintage uniforms historically exclusive to men. Highlighting uniforms from the Second Industrial Revolution until the end of the Weimar Republic, Eve’s Glory compares the ceremonial attitudes historically associated with the military to the proud independence of modern women.

Military uniforms are symbols of heroic and elite social status. The authentic uniforms belong to officers from several countries, symbolizing the strict value system of the period from 1868 to the 1930s. If women had been granted the same status as men, how would they have been perceived? Would society focus on delicate femininity or strength? Melting away the barriers by integrating women into this masculine world, this project questions the gender divide.

I am interested in challenging the conventional ways in which females are visually presented. Women in fashion magazines, TV commercials, and mainstream films are usually dressed in a way that speaks to a structure of social expectations. Characterized by a sharp division between masculinity and femininity, dominance and passivity, toughness and delicacy, women are narrowly defined. A woman in uniform is a visual impossibility.

Showing the contrast between two different worlds—the masculine and the feminine—Eve’s Glory deals with unique characters regardless of age, health, and origin to show women who fought their way through life and the young women who strive for their own path.

—A. Tamboly

Some Awesome Female Avant-Garde Artists

Now I have always been a very big fan of unconventional art movements. Not only do I appreciate how those art movements have influenced what we see today, but the history that prompted them is rather revolutionary. Today, I want to appreciate the women who aren’t as well-known as the great Frida Kahlo. This post is more focused in the late 1910’s, to the 1930’s period. It is to honour some of the out-of-the-box women that I admire so much, from all sorts of movements. Here we go!

Helen Lundeberg (1908–1999)

Not just a formally taught and talented artist, but Lundeberg was actually one of the founders of what would be known as the Post-Surrealism art movement, later leaning to abstraction in the 1950’s. She was not only talented, but extremely intelligent, earning a place at Stanford University for “brilliant children.” Now while I said I would focus on the lesser-known artists, Lundeberg is a rather more famous one. However she is a tough one to leave out. She was especially famous during the 1930’s. She was in charge to create multiple murals, and her exhibitions (including her early solo exhibits) were very successful. It’s interesting to see her works evolve during her life, yet remain distinctly recognizable as hers.

Above: Portrait of Inez, 1933, by Helen Lundeberg (1908–1999).

Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943)

Certainly a woman ahead of her time, Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s artwork as a painter, sculptor, textile designer, furniture, interior designer, architect and dancer all scream “modern woman.” She studied different art forms, primarily textile art, formally in some areas. She was quite heavy in the Dada scene, yet her Constructivist works are probably her most recognizable. Her use of colours of her geometric forms are what draw the eye. Taeuber-Arp’s talent and hard work earned her a position teaching weaving and other textile arts at the Zürich Kunstgewerbeschule (Zürich University of the Arts). She was a woman that appreciated art in all its forms, and many appreciated the way she presented them. In fact, her flexibility and talent is appreciated today, as she is, in fact, the only woman on the current series of Swiss banknotes in Switzerland.

Above: Oval Composition with Abstract Motifs, 1922, by Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943).

Marguerite Zorach (1887-1968)

Another intelligent artistic lady on the list, Marguerite Zorach became interested in art at a very young age. She, luckily, was blessed with very supportive parents that encouraged her to study everything related with liberal arts. People generally don’t get as unconventional as Zorach really was. Influenced by friends such as Picasso and Matisse, she is naturally recognized for her Fauvist work. Even her husband commented “I just couldn’t understand why such a nice girl would paint such wild pictures.” It may sound like he didn’t approve, but her husband (William Zorach) loved the way she stood out from a crowd. While she settled her “wild” painting side and became more focused on her family, she was titled president to the New York Society of Women Artists. Throughout her life Zorach experimented in all kinds of art media - even making clothes. You can certainly tell the different influences and evolution of her works. Because of this she received mixed criticism throughout her artistic years, yet her works are remembered today.

Above: Death of a Miner, 1930, by Marguerite Zorach (1887-1968).

Pan Yuliang (1899-1977)

Truly a woman to differ from the mainstream (and possibly my favourite on this list). Pan Yuliang is considered China’s “first woman in the country to paint in the Western style.” Unlike many of the woman included in this list, Yuliang did not come from a family of prominence. Just at the age of 14, she was sold by her uncle to a brothel and forced into prostitution. In an amazing turn of events, however, she was noticed by a kind wealthy man who brought her freedom. Becoming his second wife and adopting his last name, he sponsored her education and allowed her artistic abilities to flourish. Because of her talent, fast learning, and hard work, she was accepted in not only the Shanghai Art School, but also numerous schools in Europe. This even included Italy’s Roman Royal Art Academy. Pan Yuliang wasn’t particularly loved by all in China, however. Her works caused some outrage in her home country, and she eventually settled in France, where her paintings were more appreciated.

Above: Detail of Self-portrait, 1936, by Pan Yuliang (1899-1977).

Aleksandra Ekster (1882-1949)

Another abstract woman to appreciate, Russian painter Aleksandra Ekster uniquely used her skills for design purposes. Because of her extraordinary designs, she was required to work in numerous fabulous cities, from places in her home country of Russia, to the romantic Paris, France. Thanks to her prominent and wealthy family, Ekster was free to study art formally, later graduating from Kiev Art School. Her life was the ultimate art fantasy, as she organised meetings at her studio for Russia’s “intellectual elite.” This included artists, writers, and poets. While she never stuck with just one movement, but varied in many revolutionary avant-garde art movements of her time, her style is completely unique and consistent. She is known distinctly for her fashion designs, which were not only completely wearable, but also very memorable.

Above: Costume design for Romeo and Juliette, 1921, by Aleksandra Ekster (1882-1949).

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Augusta Savage (1892–1962)

A prominent name in the Harlem Renaissance movement, Augusta Savage was not just an artist, but also an important Civil Rights activist.

While Augusta showed a passion for art at a very young age, her religious father disapproved greatly. She never let her family’s opinions deter her, as she continued to refine her talents and accepted encouragement elsewhere. Her talent and hardwork did not go ignored, as she enrolled in tuition-free Cooper Union and even received a scholarship which covered living expenses. However, as clearly gifted as Augusta was, many could not see past her race. After completing her schooling, she applied for an art program in France, and was rejected due to her race. Rather than let her set this back, she used her experience to draw attention to these hateful prejudices.

Augusta was finally able to travel and become even more well-known as she received fellowships and grants which allowed her to travel over Europe, later returning to a poor America as the Great Depression was in full effect. Commissions were lacking during this time, but it did not slow Augusta. She opened a studio in 1932, became the first black artist to join the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, and was a founding member of the Harlem Artists’ Guild.

By the time of her death, in the 1960’s, Augusta Savage was almost completely forgotten and was far from a famous name at the time. Thankfully, she is remembered today for her Civil Rights achievements through art.

Above: Bust of Gwendolyn Knight, who was a close friend of Augusta, one of her most famous busts: Gamin (1929), and The Harp (1939). The Harp, also known as Lift Every Voice and Sing, was created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It was extremely popular, but was destroyed with the other installations at the end of the event.

The Klamath News, Oregon, February 22, 1930

“What the hell, mister – have you ever been in Springfield?” asked Mrs. Amelia Bascon, 19, mother of a baby son, when asked today why she had joined the army of blonde, bobbed-haired girl bandits.

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“Rosalind Russell is leaving town to recuperate from The Women–or rather from the first kick delivered by Paulette Goddard in their movie fight. Paulette uses the toe method in kicking (very painful). For the second take, she was ordered to kick with the side of her foot. ‘Also painful,’ Miss Russell told me prior to leaving, ‘but less dangerous.’” – Sheilah Graham