Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Art History

First Advisor

Eric Garberson

Second Advisor

Kathleen Chapman

Third Advisor

Charles Brownell

Fourth Advisor

Nicholas Frankel


Modernism is a plurality, not a singular concept. This project explores examples of Art Nouveau nudes to describe the particular expressions of the modern through varied and complicated allegorical bodies. The female nude as a nexus for ideals of gender, art, and beauty, is informed by and constructs the understanding of these ideals within society. Art Nouveau thus employed the nude to represent complex manifestations of modernity. Three diverse cases provide the subjects of each chapter. All explore modernism through objects and interiors, in public and private environments, and each connects the decorative arts with accounts of European modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The modernist movement, in these decades, is still predominantly understood through painting.

This project draws its case studies from Paris, Glasgow, and Vienna, each a distinct cultural arena during the 1890s and 1900s: the sculptural furniture of François Rupert Carabin (1862-1932); the metalwork of Margaret Macdonald (1865-1933) and her sister Frances Macdonald (1873-1921); and the graphic motifs of Ver Sacrum, created by the artists of the first Vienna Secession (1897-1905). In conception and expression, these nudes articulated the diverse representational practices of different modernisms. They each embody drastically different histories, aesthetics, and social expressions. Their varied modernisms expose the prominent nationalism of Art Nouveau. Examination of these three very different cases expands and complicates current understandings of the nude, allegory, and the modern.


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VCU University Archives

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


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