Twitter Takeover: Dr Freya Gowrley


Next week, starting on Monday 20th November, Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Freya Gowrley will lead our second Twitter Takeover, where we hand over control of the IASH Twitter feed (@IASH_Edinburgh) to a Fellow. Freya has been at IASH since September, having completed her PhD in History of Art at Edinburgh last year. Here she outlines her current research:

Collage, from the French verb coller, ‘to glue’, is often associated with papier collé, or paper collage. Yet the period 1700-1912 saw a varied proliferation of collaged forms. With visual, material, and literary manifestations, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed the production of decoupage, assembled furniture, quilts, extra-illustrated or grangerized texts (printed texts embellished with additional images), commonplace books (manuscript volumes containing fragments of excerpted texts), shellwork, scrapbooks, photomontage, and paper collage. What united these disparate objects were the processes through which they were made: acquisition and selection, adaptation and reformulation—the very processes that we associate with the production of collage.

Despite this proliferation, collage made during this period has been relatively neglected within art historical scholarship, particularly when compared to collage made after 1912, the date of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque’s earliest papier collé, often hailed as the ‘invention’ of collage. This chronological distinction, a kind of periodization that privileges Modernist collage and separates it from that which came before it, reinforces traditional hierarchies between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art forms, domestic and public activities, and the gendered distinction between art and craft.

During my time as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at IASH, I’ll be unearthing and interrogating this forgotten history of collage through my project, ‘Collage before Modernism: Intimacy, Identity, and the Writing of Art History in Britain and North America, 1700-1912’. The project approaches the production and consumption of collage from two angles. Firstly, it explores how collage functioned to express the emotions and identities of those who made, owned, and viewed it; and secondly, it uses collage to ask broader questions about some of art history’s key ideas and concerns.

Over the week of my Twitter takeover, I’ll discuss some of the avenues of research that I’m currently pursuing; an event I’m currently organising; and finally, I’ll introduce some of the key objects that the project will examine in greater depth.    

You can follow Freya on Twitter at @Freya_Gowrley or read her blog, Material Culture and Identity in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.