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Description: Women Designers in the USA, 1900–2000: Diversity and Difference
DEDICATION: In memory of my mother—the first feminist in my life—who told me her stories, and introduced me to the decorative arts, Hollywood movies, fashion, politics, pleasure, and much else. And of my father—the first male supporter of “equal rights” in my life—who told me his stories and introduced me to history, architecture, politics, soccer, and much...
PublisherBard Graduate Center
PublisherYale University Press
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Dedication: In memory of my mother—the first feminist in my life—who told me her stories, and introduced me to the decorative arts, Hollywood movies, fashion, politics, pleasure, and much else. And of my father—the first male supporter of “equal rights” in my life—who told me his stories and introduced me to history, architecture, politics, soccer, and much else. Her stories, his stories, and herstory/history continue to sustain and nourish me, as I hope they will my three wonderful daughters, Sarah, Alex, and Kate.

The idea of marking the millennium and the end of a century labeled by some “The American Century” and by others “The Women’s Century” with a research, exhibition, and publishing project about women designers in America was the brainchild of Susan Weber Soros, director of the Bard Graduate Center, and Shelby White, a member of the center’s executive planning committee. What better exhibition in a center dedicated to the study of design and the decorative arts, it was argued, than one featuring women designers across a century that saw women win the vote and enter many professional design fields for the first time? I am indebted to them both. Susan Weber Soros not only invited me to direct the project but also supported the focus on “diversity and difference” and the placing of women at the center of history, rather than the margins. A champion of design and the decorative arts, she is also a supportive and stimulating academic colleague. I applaud her for the former and thank her for the latter, and for many personal kindnesses.
Since working on this project, I have sometimes been asked “why just women?” While pointing out that no exhibition can hope to be all-inclusive and that no one ever asked “why men?” during any of my projects involving male designers over the last thirty years, I make no apologies for singling out for study a sector of society whose histories are still not told in all their complexities—and certainly not in terms of design. This exhibition and publication stand in the spirit of those feminists who, over a century ago, favored separating women’s art and design from that of men at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. They did so then not because of an abstract principle but because they believed a separate exhibit at that moment in time would better highlight women’s work and achievements and lead to greater understanding and appreciation of it. I hope that this publication and the exhibition it accompanies, along with the special issue of Studies in the Decorative Arts and related public programs, will lead to a deeper understanding of the varied and multiple roles and achievements of women designers during the twentieth century, as well as the constraints within which they worked.
The immediate aims of the exhibition and book are to celebrate the scope as well as the quality of work designed by women in the United States, and to better understand the various ways in which a wide range of women came to be designers and to practice as such. The broader aims are to counter the marginalization of women within design history, to emphasize the gendered nature of design practice, highlight the intersections of gender with other factors such as “race,” class, employment, and experience, and to help erode the eurocentrism of much current scholarship in a century where magnificent work came from “minority ethnic” women. All areas of design are treated equally seriously—be it ceramics or cinema; fashion or furniture; graphics or gardens; interiors or industrial design—and no attempt was made to privilege hand-made work over machine-made, or vice versa.
Selection is never easy and in a show that covers a whole century one cannot hope to be inclusive. I took chronological spread as well as types of objects into consideration (and occasionally size since we are a relatively small gallery). The show includes only one item per designer—something I agonized over but which has been declared “the fairest way” by each and every living designer.
Collaboration has been one of the joys of this large and sometimes overwhelming project. So many people have been helpful that I hardly know where to begin my expressions of gratitude. Any omissions relate to editorial exhaustion and “senior moments” rather than lack of gratitude. Special thanks to the twenty authors whose work is presented here. I enjoyed the dialogues of the editorial process and learned a great deal. It was a pleasure to work with Toni Greenbaum, Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Penny Sparke, Shauna Stallworth and Lynne Walker—with whom I coauthored chapters—and with Jaqueline Atkins, Whitney Blausen and Mary Schoeser, Eileen Boris, Cheryl Buckley, Leslie Close, Ned Cooke, Jeannine Falino, Judith Gura, Ella Howard and Eric Setliff, Wendy Kaplan, Pamela Kladzyk, Ellen Lupton, and Valerie Steele. Valerie, who originally contracted to write the second half of a chapter split between herself and Richard Martin, kindly took over the entire chapter when Richard became too ill to continue. He was a good friend to this project and we miss him. Special thanks also to Lynne Walker, whose perceptive comments as “reader” of all the chapters, was greatly appreciated and to Michelle Black Smith who, due to unforeseen circumstances, was not able to contribute. Thanks also to Nicole Demerin and Cynthia Lee Henthorn for use of data relative to student designers.
The late Richard Martin was our consultant on fashion. Joanna Bigfeather was consultant on matters related to Native American design and craft traditions and objects, and Shauna Stallworth acted in a similar capacity for African American design and designers. Wendy Kaplan was consultant on items related to the Arts and Crafts movement. Jacqueline M. Atkins, Jeannine Falino, Lynn Felsher, and Toni Greenbaum advised on quilts, metalwork, textiles, and jewelry respectively. Johanna Brenner and Beverley Skeggs (two of the best friends anyone could wish for) advised on feminist theory, history, and gender issues. Denis Gallion, Daniel Morris, and Mark McDonald were helpful throughout. My thanks to them all.
I would like to reiterate Susan Soros’s thanks to the lenders whose precious objects tell many important stories and affect us in many ways. I also extend my gratitude to the sponsors without whose generosity this project would have been lesser at every level and to the designers whose work is exhibited. Special thanks to Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, who funded this publication, and to Barbara and Richard Debs, who funded the research assistantship that got this project under way. I am also grateful to the Wolfsonian—Florida International University, Miami Beach, for awarding me a Fellowship (February 1999) to study women designers. Mitchell Wolfson Jr. and all the staff were unfailingly helpful. A special thank you to funder Sheri Sandler who introduced me to a variety of women engaged in wider “practical feminism.” One such was photographer Joan Roth, some of whose images appear in the Context Line (together with one of a hair curler patented by her mother, Clara Altman). I hope that all the lenders, funders, designers, and other supporters of the project will take pleasure in the fact that over the last three years Bard Graduate Center students have been involved with the research, planning, and execution of the exhibition and publications. My generation of design historians did not enjoy such opportunities, and I am grateful to all those who make them available to young scholars.
My thanks to Ellen Lupton and Patrick Seymour for designing a beautiful book, and to Vicki Latimer Roan of Tsang Seymour Design for her invaluable input. Thanks again to Ellen for the cover design. I feel honored that Deborah Sussman, a member of the team that produced the first Eames Office “timeline” in 1960, agreed to lead the team that designed the one for our exhibition (a redesigned version of which appears in this book). Working with her and with Jennifer Stoller and Ana Llorente-Thurik was extremely rewarding, and I am delighted with the results. My thanks to them, and to Sarah Lichtman, my co-compiler, whose keen intelligence in matters visual and historical, was crucial to the success of the endeavor.
The exhibition would never have taken final form without an enormous amount of “backstage” work and I am extremely grateful to Steven Berkhart, Janet Hawkins, Alissa Warshaw, and Han Vu for all the work they put into its design and preparation. My thanks also to two former exhibition assistants, Nicole Linderman and Dana Bielicki, for their help with securing loans and photographs; to Steve Waterman who advised on design until May 2000.
Nina Strizler-Levine guided me through curating this exhibition. The very best of exhibition directors, she encouraged me to be as ambitious for it as she was herself. I hope she will not be disappointed. Martina D’Alton also proved to be the very best and most patient of editors; her calmness is matched only by her perceptive readings and excellent editorial skills. She, Nina Strizler-Levine, and my research assistants, were the linchpins of this project. I want them all to know just how much I appreciate their efforts and how much I enjoyed working with them.
My immediate support structure came in the shape of two excellent full-time research assistants (who, unfortunately, overlapped for only a short time), student assistants, and a husband who ferried food to my office. My grateful thanks to Ella Howard, a model researcher, whose initiatives, organizational skills, and feminist insights enriched the project, and to Ron Labaco whose passion for and knowledge of objects, together with his incomparable “people skills,” smoothed many loan requests and research inquiries. Three student assistants from the current Bard Graduate Center student body, Stephanie Day Iverson, Sarah Lichtman, Margaret Maile, and Scott Perkins, played an important part in the preparation of the exhibition and book. I commend them for their professionalism and the pleasure they take in knowledge as well as their commitment to gender issues. Andy Hoogenboom, whose enthusiasm for art, design, and life is unbounded, supplied moral support as well as food. Without his readiness to take over all domestic responsibilities, this project would never have been completed.
At the Bard Graduate Center, academic librarians Greta Earnest, Stephanie Sueppel, and Irina Kandarasheva went out of their way to be helpful, as did Lorraine Bacalles, Judith Maiorana, and other staff. Fundraising was expertly handled by Susan Wall and Tara D’Andrea and publicity by Tim Mulligan and Polly Giragosian. Lisa Podos, Jill Gustafson, and Lee Talbot produced an exceptionally varied schedule of public programs. They were all a pleasure to work with. Bard Graduate Center students, past and present, who have helped in a variety of ways include Eric Setliff, Edina Deme, Emily Miller, Lisa Dent, Sarah Maud Lydiatt, Deborah Miller, Jennifer Scanlan, Marlyn Musicant, Christian Carr, Lisa Bingham, Leslie Klinger, Mary Dohne, James Beebe, Jason Petty, Barbara Mayer, Grace Jeffers, and Maria Perers.
I am grateful to my academic colleagues Ken Ames, Amy Ogata, Derek Ostergard, and Kevin Stayton for helpful suggestions about the project. Thanks also to Beth Holman, François Louis, Michele Majer, Andrew Morrall, Elizabeth Simpson, and Stefanie Walker for their support and collegiality, and to Sally Sherrill, editor of Studies in the Decorative Arts, for producing the special issue on women designers. I also want to thank Leon Botstein, Bob Martin, and Stuart Levine for welcoming me into the academic community of Bard College.
A large number of archivists, curators, collectors, librarians, scholars, and administrative assistants helped at every stage of this project. My thanks to the following for their efforts and courtesies: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles (Anne Coco, Kristine Krueger); The African American Museum in Philadelphia (Aileen Rosenberg); American Craft Museum, New York (Marsha Beitchman, Larry Giacoletti, Shawn Greene, Ursula Ilse-Neuman, David McFadden); American Museum of Natural History, New York (Kristen Marble, Enid Schildkrout); Arizona Historical Society; The Art Institute of Chicago (Jennifer Downs, Nicole Finzer, Hsiu-Ling Huang); Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University of the City of New York (Angela Giral, Janet Parks); The Baltimore Museum of Art (James A. Abbott); The Black Fashion Museum, Washington, D.C. (Joyce Bailey, Valerie Chisholm, Dennis McBride); The Boston Public Library; Brooklyn Museum of Art (Deirdre Lawrence, Diana Fane, Ruth Janson, Arnold L. Lehman, Patricia Mears, Kevin Stayton, Robert Thill); California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco (Kristin Bach); The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, Florida (Jennifer Perry); Cincinnati Art Museum (Jennifer Howe); Cincinatti Museum Center (Cynthia Keller); Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Taylor Museum (Susan Conley, Cathy Wright); Columbia University of the City of New York, Archives and Special Collections; Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York (Jill Bloomer, Gail Davidson, Joanne Kosuda-Warner, Emily Miller, Cordelia Rose, Deborah Sampson Shinn, Marilyn Symmes, Stephen Van Dyk); The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York (Carol Salomon); Cornell University Library (Lorna Knight, Peter Martinez); Corning Museum of Glass (Jutta-Annette Page); Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Amy Beil, Stéphane Houy-Towner, Myra Walker, Emily Martin, Dennis Sewell); Coty, Inc. (Rick Kinsel); The Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloom-field Hills, Michigan (Archives: Mark Coir, Amy James; Art Museum: Ashley Brown, Roberta Gilboe, Gregory Wittkopp; Educational Community: Robert Saarnio); Dallas Museum of Art (Stephen Harrison, Anne Lawrence, Charles Venable); Denver Art Museum (Shannon Corrigan, Emily Kosakowski, R. Craig Miller, Tamara Roghaar, Eric Stephenson); Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York (Michael Flanagan, Tom Piche, Jr., Debora Ryan); F. Schumacher and Company Archives, New York (Richard Slavin, Phyllis Wick-ham); The Frank Lloyd Wright Archives, Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona, Fine and Decorative Arts Collections (Penny Fowler, Donna Hoover); The Frick Collection, New York (Katherine Gerlough, Edgar Munhall, William Stout); Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, Massachusetts (Jennifer Atkinson); Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection (Sara Stubbins); The Heard Museum, Phoenix (Diana Pardue); Hearst Castle—Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, California (Hoyt Fields, Deborah Weldon); Indianapolis Museum of Art (Barry Shifman); Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, Santa Fe (Joanna Bigfeather, Paula Rivera); International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska, Lincoln (Caroline Ducey); John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library and Museum, Boston (Alan Goodrich, James Hill, Frank Rigg, Megan Sawyer); John M. Flaxman Library, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Roland Hansen); The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, Connecticut (Brenda Danilowitz, Phyllis Fitzgerald); The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Jo Lauria); Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theater Collection, (Rick Hunter, Robert Taylor); Lucy Scribner Library, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (Elizabeth Putnam); Marathon County Public Library, Wausau, Wisconsin; Massachusetts College of Art, Boston (Paul Dobbs); Memorial Hall Museum, Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield, Massachusetts (Suzanne Flynt, Christine Granat); Mendocino County Museum (Rebecca Snetselaar); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Jane Adlin, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Sandra Fritz, Stewart Johnson, Julie Jones, Kendall McWilliam, Amelia Peck, Jennifer Wade, Myra Walker); Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing (Lynne Swanson, Pearl Yee Wong); Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Patricia Martinson, Christopher Monkhouse, Lotus Stack); The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts/The Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts (Diane Charbonneau, Linda-Anne D’Anjou, Guy Cogeval); The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York (Joanne Dolan, Ellen Shandley); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Jeannine Falino); Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe (Tony Chaverria, David McNeece); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (Pierre Adler, John Alexander, Mary Corliss, Jennifer Culvert, Terry Geesker, Madeleine Hensler, Luisa Lorch, Cora Rosevear, Kirk Varnedoe); Museum of the City of New York (Anne Easterling, Marguerite Lavin, Phyllis Magidson, Eileen Morales, William Wise); National Japanese American Historical Society, San Francisco; Nevada Historical Society, Reno (Andrea Mugnier); Nevada State Museum, Carson City (Gene Hattori, Roz Works); New York Public Library (Photographic Department); The Norwest Collection, Norwest Corporation, Minneapolis (David Ryan); The Palace of the Governors, Museum of New Mexico (Arthur L. Olivias, Richard Rudisill); Parsons School of Design, New York, The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Archives (X. Theodore Barber); Philadelphia Museum of Art (Dilys Blum, Donna Corbin, Kristina Haugland, Kathryn B. Heisenger); The Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa (Christy Fasano, Shelby Tisdale, Thomas Young); Schlesinger Library, The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Anne Englehardt); The Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (Elizabeth Broun, Abigail Terrones, Kenneth R. Trapp); Rhode Island School of Design (Madlyn Shaw); The Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago (Jason Molina, Mary Woolever); Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia (Gill Davies, John Micheal Pearson, George Perez); Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library; School of American Research—Indian Arts Research Center, Santa Fe (Christy Sturm); University of Arizona, Tucson, Special Collections Library (Jan Kathy Davis, Roger Myers); Syracuse China Archives, New York (Ruth Pass Hancock); Syracuse Public Library, New York; The Textile Museum, New York (Madeline Shaw); Tulane University Art Collection, Tulane University Library (Wilbur Meneray, Leon Miller); Universal Studios, Archives and Collections (Daryl A. Maxwell), Licensing (Nancy Cushing Jones); University of California, Berkeley (Art Museum: Jacquelynn Bass, Stephanie Cannizzo); Environmental Design Archives (Beatrix Jones Farrand Collection: Waverly Lowell, Kelcy Shepherd, Jody Stack); The Wolfsonian—Florida International University, Miami Beach (David Burnhauser, Pedro Figueredo, Joel Hoffman, Wendy Kaplan, Cathy Leff, Frank Luca, Richard Miltner, Annie Wharton); Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (Jennifer Bossman, Patricia Kane, Jock Reynolds, Nancy Yates); and the Yosemite Museum, Yosemite National Park, California (Craig Bates, David Forgang).
Many design companies, galleries, and other organizations were supportive of this project. I am most grateful to them all: Alternative Design, Jersey City, New Jersey (Susan Santoro); American Indian College Fund, New York (Wayne Martin); American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York (Alice Twemlow); American Society of Interior Designers, New York (Susan Aiello, Nancy Blocks Barsotti); Annie Leibowitz Studio, New York (Michael Fisher); Association of Women Industrial Designers, New York (Erika Doering, Rachel Switzky, Rebecca Welz); Balmori Associates, New Haven (Mary Rickel); Bison Archives, Hollywood (Marc Wanamaker); Buena Vista Film, Burbank, California (Sales: Sarah Stevenson); Cecil’s Designers Unlimited, Coconut Creek, Florida (Mike Orgill); Clodagh Design, New York (Jen Diamond); Columbia Tristar Motion Pictures Group, Culver City, California (Margarita Medina); Conde Nast Publications, New York (Kate Gardner, Deanna Raso, Michael Stier); Contact Press Images, New York (Jeffrey Smith); Copy Door Graphics, New York; Donna Karan Company, New York (Jennifer Cohen, Nadia Sulaiman); Dorothy Draper and Company, New York (Carleton Varney); Dreamworks Skg, Universal City, California (Melissa Hendricks); Eames Office, Los Angeles (Eames Demetrios, Lucia Eames, Shelley Mills); Eastman Kodak (Tom Bonisteel); Ellen McCluskey and Associates, New York (Frank Sierra); Emmy Magazine (Rosa Madonna); Estate of Lois Mailou Jones (James Larry Fraiser); Esto Photographics, Mamaroneck, New York (Meiers Tambeau); Exhibitions International, New York (David Hanks, Osanna Urbay); Facets Multimedia, Chicago; The Fashion Group International, New York (Lenore Benson); Forty Acres and a Mule (Spike Lee); Gansevoort Gallery, New York (Eric Setliff, Scott VanderHamm); Garth Clark Gallery, New York (Gretchen Adkins, Garth Clark); General Motors Design Center, Warren, Michigan (Matt Koesler); Gleason Gallery, New York (Tim Gleason); Higgins Glass Studio, Riverside, Illinois (Louise Wimmer); Historical Design, New York (Denis Gallion, Caroline Hannah, Daan de Kuyper, Daniel Morris); Knoll, Inc. East Greenville, Pennsylvania (Lauren Cadmus, Hee Sun Choi, Mary O’Grady, Albert Pfeiffer); Krohn Design, Los Angeles; Larsen, Inc., New York (Crystal Cooper, Matko Tomicic); McMillen, Inc., New York (Edward Jenkins, Mora Mathews, Betty Sherrill); Margo Chase Design, Los Angeles (Chris Lowery); Martha Schwartz, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts (Evelyn Bergalia, Laine Butterworth); MGM, Santa Monica, California (Ugene Park); The Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans, Ann Arbor, Michigan (Deborah Miller); Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia (Doris Chorney); New Line Cinema, New York (Robin Zlatin); Olive 1:1, New York (Noen Nguyen); Organization of Black Designers, Washington, D. C. (Bill Brown); Paramount Pictures, Hollywood, California (Bill Berrios); Pentagram Design, New York (Kurt Koepfle); reasonsense, Alta Dena, California (Adam Eeuwens); Robert Cargo Folk Art Gallery, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Robert Cargo); Rose Cumming, Inc., New York (Ronald Grimaldi); St. Clare Entertainment (Sharon Dolin); Source One International, Chicago (Cecelia Mitchell Daspit); Southern Highland Craft Guild, Asheville, North Carolina (Laurey-Faye Long); Spanierman Gallery, New York (Betty Krulick); Spelman College, Atlanta (Taronda Spencer); Sussman/Prejza and Company, Culver City, California (Selene Rawls); Tenazas Design, San Francisco (Jennifer Kaufman); Tiffany and Company, New York (Fernanda Kellogg); Time-Life Syndications, New York (Katherine Hopkins, Jennifer McAlwee); Twentieth Century Fox, Century City, California (Andrew Trosman); UNISYS Corporation, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania; United Airlines, Chicago; Universal Studios, Universal City, California (Thomas Casteneda, Nancy Cushing-Jones); University of Kentucky, Lexington (Allison Carll-White, Anne Whiteside-Dickson); Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Philadelphia (Emily Fuller); Vignelli Associates, New York (Arielle Goldberg); and Warner Bros., Burbank, California (Judith Singer).
I am also extremely grateful to the following individuals for help and permissions: Donald Albrecht, Anita Stewart Bach, Bernard Banet, Jim Benjamin, Eugene Bielawski, Lynne Breslin, Talisman Brolin, Ashley Brown, Maite Bursic, Beatriz Colomina, Barbara B. Cooke, Lucia DeRespinis, Mary Donahue, Deidre Donohue, Sara Dubow, Harriete Estel-Berman, Lisa Farrington, Martin Filler, Matt Flynn, Nancy Gruen, Rosemarie Haag-Bletter, Albert Hadley, Karen Hampton, Linda C. Hartley, Dolores Hayden, Valerie Hennigan, J. Michelle Hill-Campbell, Janet Kardon, Gere Kavanaugh, Grace Keating, Juliet Kinchin, Sally Kinsey, Giles Kotcher, Rachel Kueny, John Landis, Spike Lee, Annie Leibovitz, Victor Margolin, Santana Martinez, Anne Massey, Barbara Mayer, Louise Meire-Dunn, Marilee Boyd Meyer, Lloyd Morgan, Susan Peterson, Wendy Ponca, Richard Quinn, Rosalie Raab, Peter S. Reed, Faith Ringgold, Mary Roehm, Elaine Rosenfeld, Joan Rothschild, Troy Segal, Molly Seiler, Deita and Vincent Simone, David Small, Wesley Snipes, Janis Staggs-Flinchum, Jewel Stern, Stephanie Stokes, Nancy Ellen A. Streeter, John Stuart, Usha Subramaniam, Karen P. Swanson, Judith Tankard, Diane Taylor, Ruben Toledo, Dorothea Towles, Denise J. Vetter, John Michael Vlack, Judith Wilson, Stuart Wurtzel, and Kohle Yohannan.
Last but by no means least, my thanks to all the designers without whose work and cooperation this project would not have been possible. I hope their work gives readers and viewers as much pleasure as it has me.
Editor’s Note: In the chapters that follow, the checklist numbers at the end of each caption refer to the Checklist of the Exhibition. Sources in the endnotes are given in a shortened form; full references will be found in the bibliography.