Situating Paintings of Women and Horticulture in Local and Global Historical Contexts

Situating Paintings of Women and Horticulture in Local and Global Historical Contexts

My name is Kristan Hanson and I am a PhD candidate in art history at the University of Kansas.

As a new HASTAC Scholar, I have been asked to share my research with members of my cohort and the broader community. So, here’s my first blog post!

What? My dissertation examines paintings of women and ornamental plants by Paris-based artists of the 1870s. This selection of pictures shows the kinds of female florists, prostitutes, gardeners, and shoppers who were the primary distributors of fresh blooms in an otherwise male-dominated horticultural network.

When? In the second half of the nineteenth century, Parisian artists responded to a sudden blossoming of interest in horticulture—the art of growing gardens and displaying plants.

Where? The fashion for cultivating rare, luxurious, and non-native species was bound up with French colonial expansion and the establishment of horticultural networks connecting Paris to Africa, Asia, and other world regions.

Why? Much of the feminist scholarship on late nineteenth-century French art, gender, space, movement, and urbanism analyzes how paintings illuminate gaps between the ideology of separate spheres and the ways that actual Parisian women experienced everyday life.

I respond to the state of the research by proposing that certain paintings of women and horticulture elucidate an undertheorized botanical entanglement of female mobility with local and global plant movement patterns.

How? I plot the locations that artists show, along with other greens spaces, on an 1870 map of Paris. This partial mapping of Paris’s horticultural network enhances my readings of paintings that thematize gendered interactions with flora.

Two recent exhibitions that relate to my research are the MET’s Public Parks, Private Gardens and the CMA/RA’s Painting the Modern Garden.

Over the next two years, I will author blog posts that explore how scholars and museum professionals use mapping, and other kinds of data visualization, to study art, gender, urbanism, movement, and human interactions with the plant world.