At Home with the Women's Guild of Arts: gender and professional identity in London studios, c.1880–1925

Zoe Thomas

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This article explores a recently discovered archive, pertaining to the Women's Guild of Arts, in order to deepen understanding of the ways middle-class women, working in the fine and applied arts, constructed artistic identity in London, c.1880–1925. The Women's Guild of Arts was formed as women artists were not allowed to join the Arts and Crafts male-only Art Workers' Guild. Analysis of the Women's Guild of Arts archive, alongside the personal memoirs of members of the Guild, show the importance women artists placed on the acquisition of studios, and the significance of studios in building a professional network of female sociability and artistic contacts. Analysis of a sample of studios belonging to Guild members develops knowledge about how professional identity was achieved, and mediated, by women artists. The archive provides the opportunity to consider how both singular, and collective, studio activity was gendered. It reveals the persistent concerns members had about the appropriate use of space in their quest for professional status and examines their views on drawing rooms, exhibitions, male-only spaces, and their adapted use of At Homes in their studios.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)938-964
Number of pages27
JournalWomen's History Review
Issue number6
Early online date2 Jun 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2015

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