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A Modern Woman of Art History: Florine Stettheimer

Jun 20, 2011

by Cate Fitt

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

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Cate Fitt, a.k.a. knitfitt, has been a member of Etsy since 2007 and is an experienced critic, curator and juror. She earned her MFA in fiber in 1978, later receiving an artist’s fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the years, she’s been a maker of one-of-a-kind hand-painted clothing, pottery, jewelry, and linocut and monotype prints. She lives in a little house close to the James River with two whippets named Moose and Peach. 

Back in the bad old days of the 1970s, when art history and the professional art world were completely dominated by a good old boys network, some women couldn’t — or wouldn’t — stomach vain attempts to conform to such a norm. These women (and I was among them) sought role models who might have been there all along but were hidden from view because they were not included in books or museum exhibitions.

For some of us, Florine Stettheimer (1871 – 1944) was a treasured find. Her technique was clearly modern, very witty and insightful, but there was no mistaking her paintings for those by her male contemporaries. Her colors were sweet and the women she depicted were her mother and sisters, not the impersonal or devouring sex objects of Picasso or Matisse. I also loved the way the three sisters, Florine, Carrie and Ettie, dressed with great flair and a sense of personal style. They patronized such couturiers as Paul Poiret or The House of Paquin and wore exotic fabrics with elaborate embroidery. For this collection, I have tried to imagine what they might have chosen if they were shopping on Etsy today.

1. Every serious painter needs a good paint box.
2. Alfred Steiglitz might have asked Florine where she got the Antler Purse so he could surprise Georgia O’Keefe with one of her own.
3. This dress would be a triumph at one of the sisters’ salons, attended by such sophisticated friends as Man Ray and Elie Nadelman.
4. I hope her friend Marcel Duchamp would have been amused by this Ready Made tee shirt
5. This tableau of the Seven Deadly Sins wearing the greatest fashions of a hundred years ago could almost be mistaken for a portrait of the Stettheimer sisters or inhabitants of Carrie’s famous doll house at the Museum of the City of New York.

1. The painting “Heat” (1919) commemorates Florine’s mother’s birthday on a day so hot that the sisters have wilted into languid odalisques and abandoned their knitting. Meanwhile their mother, from an older and corseted generation, sits upright, sewing basket close at hand.
2. What better clothing to wear on a dreadfully hot day with no air conditioning than a loose hand-embroidered cotton dress?
3. Creating a breeze with this hand-dyed fan might help pass a very hot afternoon.
4.These birthday candles would make any cake festive.
5. Perfect for holding small embroidery or mending projects, this Chinese sewing basket would be right at home in the Stettheimers’ 58th Street mansion.
6. The flowers on this knitting bag are as colorful and exuberant as one of Stettheimer’s still lifes.

1. “Picnic at Bedford Hills” (1918) depicts a day of languid entertainment in a pastoral setting (note the hay wagon and fields in the distance). The sisters, their friends and two tiny dogs have gathered for an elegant picnic of lobster. Duchamp is helping Carrie set out the food on a flowered cloth.
2. One of the sisters could easily have worn this dress to stay cool on a summer day.
3. Perhaps this parasol is similar to the one Florine is holding.
4. It is my fantasy that their meal ended with delicious lollypops.
5. A generous basket like this is necessary for all picnics.
6. The little poodle in this etching reminds me of the dogs in the painting.

 

1. “Four Saints in Three Acts,” an opera with libretto by Gertrude Stein, score by Virgil Thompson and an all African-American cast, created a sensation in 1934. Stettheimer designed the sets and costumes in cellophane and lace. Her studio and bedroom had been the testing territory for cellophane as a furnishings material.
2. An elegant bracelet formed from a strip of film negative.
3. And a hat made from colorful wires scavenged from old televisions.
4. A colorful and refreshing necklace of lava and cinnamon to wear to the latest avant garde performance.
5. Or the detritus of hurricanes.

Florine Stettheimer’s work and life are inspirational to me even today. She was so clear in her vision and in her commitment to her art. I am grateful to her for helping me on my life’s path of discovering deep meaning in traditional “women’s work” and finding ways of expressing contemporary insights and commentary without sacrificing beauty and humor. Almost all of Stettheimer’s work is held in collections in the Northeastern United States. Her “Cathedrals of New York” is on permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Picnic at Bedford Hills” is in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. “Heat” is at the Brooklyn Museum.

To see more of Florine’s work, check out the The Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale and The Smithsonian website.

Past Guest Curators

113 comments

  • readwritebooks

    readwritebooks said 5 years ago

    LOVE this!

  • rosebudshome

    rosebudshome said 5 years ago

    Thank you for making me aware of this great artist!

  • rosebudshome

    rosebudshome said 5 years ago

    Thank you for making me aware of this great artist!

  • VivaGailBeads

    VivaGailBeads said 5 years ago

    lovely article - thank you for sharing!

  • honeytree

    honeytree said 5 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this, I hadn't heard of her , I love her work !!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    Beautiful picks, there are so many overlooked women in history which is quite sad...

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns said 5 years ago

    Amazing !

  • aBreathofFrenchair

    aBreathofFrenchair said 5 years ago

    Beautiful....beautiful everything!

  • kapelusznik

    kapelusznik said 5 years ago

    like the combination :-)

  • maclancy

    maclancy said 5 years ago

    wonderful! something serene and oh so feminine about her paintings. The flow in a circle reminds me that life is ever circular with movement and color that keep us interested for more than one look! lovely ~thank you for this post! could it be a monthly thing...please!

  • blueflowervintage

    blueflowervintage said 5 years ago

    How enjoyable this is! Thank you!

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 5 years ago

    I really enjoyed this. Thank you!

  • funkomavintage

    funkomavintage said 5 years ago

    fantastic etsy picks! R Mutt,,,,ha ha. Cate and Florine have the same hairdo! ;-)

  • TriniGaiya

    TriniGaiya said 5 years ago

    I love reading about women artist and their accomplishments in the face of ignorance. Artemesia was one of my favorites.

  • MarthyMay

    MarthyMay said 5 years ago

    Oh thank you, thank you! Just what I needed for inspiration! Great article!

  • acuriousbrood

    acuriousbrood said 5 years ago

    Lovely, inspiring post.

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Wow! This is a great post! I love all the picks!!!

  • latherandlotions

    latherandlotions said 5 years ago

    Great article about a great artist. Great items too!

  • latherandlotions

    latherandlotions said 5 years ago

    Great article about a great artist. Great items too!

  • redhardwick

    redhardwick said 5 years ago

    Great article and great pix! Thanks for sharing!

  • MeadowLark

    MeadowLark said 5 years ago

    I love the painting "Heat". You can feel the sisters withering in the oppressive heat, and yet they look to be enjoying the luxuriant lounging it requires.

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 5 years ago

    Great and beautiful post ! Merci !

  • lindaketelhut

    lindaketelhut said 5 years ago

    What an inspired read. Tremendous collection. The items, colors, textures, patterns.....ah, to be captured with such style!

  • Zalavintage

    Zalavintage said 5 years ago

    I think Florine, Carrie and Ettie would have eagerly shopped from this fabulous collection! I loved the Napoleon hat..

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

    That antler handbag is so cool! Great finds, thanks for shring all of these!

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 5 years ago

    great picks! colorful and perfect for summer!

  • noonblueapples

    noonblueapples said 5 years ago

    Wonderful! thank you so much for this great article!

  • Earleyimages

    Earleyimages said 5 years ago

    These are great

  • VaVaVoomByNikkiDanby

    VaVaVoomByNikkiDanby said 5 years ago

    How witty and amusing is this! Brilliantly put together.

  • MaryFosterCreative

    MaryFosterCreative said 5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing an inspiring bit of history.

  • CAndersonDesigns

    CAndersonDesigns said 5 years ago

    Beautiful article,thank you for sharing.

  • vKnit

    vKnit said 5 years ago

    Wonderful!

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 5 years ago

    Beautiful paintings! Monica TheIDConnection & NanaBellAntiques

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 5 years ago

    fantastic article ~ love love "Heat" viva la Florine Stettheimer

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 5 years ago

    Great article and fascinating picks!

  • auntsuesoldnewlovely

    auntsuesoldnewlovely said 5 years ago

    Very interesting article. I had never heard of Florine Stettheimer before. Thanks so much!

  • GardenApothecary

    GardenApothecary said 5 years ago

    those lollipops shown are to die for! such a great concept...

  • marsia

    marsia said 5 years ago

    I hope we'll be seeing more articles by Cate Fitt on Etsy. Brilliant. Loved everything about this one.

  • kisforkitty

    kisforkitty said 5 years ago

    Great to know about her. Thank you.

  • stufandnonsense

    stufandnonsense said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article! I always like to hear about unheralded female artists and your picks were inspired.

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 5 years ago

    i really like that film bracelet. i would like to see that with pictures in it.

  • AmyMadden

    AmyMadden said 5 years ago

    I've loved her work since I was first introduced to it at art school many years ago.

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy said 5 years ago

    Another great woman artist! Hooray~ I just adore new discoveries, thank you! I know she is very famous, but Frida Kahlo is another dame with wild personal style & a fantastic sense of colour & bravery in her paintings. Great curation~ Heidi

  • beachglassshop

    beachglassshop said 5 years ago

    the antler purse certainly has my eye - what a great article! Thanks so much!

  • galleryoncentral

    galleryoncentral said 5 years ago

    This was informative and fun to discover here. thanks!

  • carolannolson

    carolannolson said 5 years ago

    Wonderful blog! Enjoyed reading it and seeing the pics. I hope to see your posts again.

  • Ebrown2503

    Ebrown2503 said 5 years ago

    BRAVO! This article was so entertaining and informative. You are so talented a writer, Cate.

  • desilver

    desilver said 5 years ago

    Delightful. I love the links between the Stettheimers and the Etsy artists and craftspeople and their terrific objects.

  • beevintageredux

    beevintageredux said 5 years ago

    Oh, I love this! I love the art and I love the inspired collections. Well done:)

  • TheScarletSageTree

    TheScarletSageTree said 5 years ago

    Fantastic post, have loved being introduced to Florine Stettheimer - a treasured find indeed! Her work resonates with originality as does her life - so enriching to read about a woman who lived life on her own terms way before the idea became popular... And wow - costumes out of cellophane and lace - hugely ahead of her time, amazing! Thanks for sharing Cate!

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana said 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing!

  • shoshlo

    shoshlo said 5 years ago

    don't forget one of the best legacies of the Stettheimer's--their dollhouse!! Their dollhouse is on view at the Museum of the City of NY today and it is fabulous! THey even had their artist friends produce miniature paintings for it, dressed it up for the holidays, etc.

  • styleforlife

    styleforlife said 5 years ago

    The collages alone ROCK MY WORLD!!!! Love this article Cate, you rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-) xx EL Vintage

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 5 years ago

    Love these collections. Nice works.

  • RadiantShadow

    RadiantShadow said 5 years ago

    I love Florine Stettheimer!! I knew my now-husband was the one when one of his first gifts to me was a book on her. The dollhouse is exquisite. Your choices are perfect for her.

  • ODDimagination

    ODDimagination said 5 years ago

    You certainly don't learn about this great artist in Art History class. Thanks for sharing about her along with all your lovely finds.

  • Bumbleweedz

    Bumbleweedz said 5 years ago

    love her commitment to her art. inspiring!!!!

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak said 5 years ago

    Love this article.

  • GrubbyAngelsStudio

    GrubbyAngelsStudio said 5 years ago

    How fun. We need more girl power! very nice to learn about someone new from our history that i wasnt aware of. Girl Power from the Past! it just doesnt get any better than this! and I bet Georgia would have liked that antler purse. or would have gotten at least a second look from her and a raised eyebrow for sure!

  • HeirloomOrphanage

    HeirloomOrphanage said 5 years ago

    Great article!

  • JoulesVintage

    JoulesVintage said 5 years ago

    Truly inspiring. Thank you!

  • quirkyshop

    quirkyshop said 5 years ago

    Great job!

  • LaBohemeBijoux

    LaBohemeBijoux said 5 years ago

    Thank you for introducing me to Florine Stettheimer. l was immediately captivated by her wonderful timeless sense of style in the opening photo. I'm inspired to learn more about her and her work. Great research and curating!

  • sblabarge

    sblabarge said 5 years ago

    Was educated today!

  • L2Country

    L2Country said 5 years ago

    WOW.... Amazing article! I truly enjoyed this. TXS so much for sharing w/ us all this great info. :-) L2Country

  • vintageprecious

    vintageprecious said 5 years ago

    Wonderful! Thank you! :)

  • PinwheelStudio

    PinwheelStudio said 5 years ago

    This is a wonderful and much needed article! As an artist and art historian, I too have sought out women artists for inspiration, as so often they are excluded from the textbooks. Thank you so much for including this article. It is beautifully and elegantly crafted.

  • cattuslavandula

    cattuslavandula said 5 years ago

    Interesting, tho I would have liked more about the artist and less about the curator. I'll read up on her on my own.

  • raenukachalee

    raenukachalee said 5 years ago

    love this

  • izimoon

    izimoon said 5 years ago

    Thank you for highlighting a female artist! I begin my student teaching within art education this fall and would like to make all of my students aware that women have been artists throughout history too.

  • SnowDayArtist

    SnowDayArtist said 5 years ago

    GrubbyAngelsStudio says it all: 'Girl Power from the Past!' - Wahoooo!

  • FabrizioFranchini

    FabrizioFranchini said 5 years ago

    Great article!!

  • beliz82

    beliz82 said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article

  • SoliDeoGloriaSDG

    SoliDeoGloriaSDG said 5 years ago

    Lovely collection!

  • gilstrapdesigns

    gilstrapdesigns said 5 years ago

    What a great article. I love that they had their own style and this is a wonderful collection of ETSY items.

  • YarnUiPhoneApp

    YarnUiPhoneApp said 5 years ago

    A day so hot that the knitters abandoned their handiwork. Now this is the days before air-conditioning! Now we knitters work on our wool projects (yes, wool) inside shops so cold we have to wear sweaters. And we definitely do not fall asleep we're **freezing.** So the good ole days weren't so good, friends!

  • fromyesterday

    fromyesterday said 5 years ago

    Such a treat!

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 5 years ago

    Very nice!

  • SailThouForth

    SailThouForth said 5 years ago

    So glad to learn about this artist! I find it sad that I although I have taken art history classes, I had never heard of her before this article. How many amazing women in history will we never know about?

  • MissHildebrandt

    MissHildebrandt said 5 years ago

    'Every serious painter needs a paint box.' My gosh, we need about 3 or 4!

  • tropicsandtradewinds

    tropicsandtradewinds said 5 years ago

    Thank you for this wonderful feature; I loved learning about Florine and your choices were terrific!!

  • GloryBDesign

    GloryBDesign said 5 years ago

    I love this article for several reasons, not the least of which was your great writing style, Cate! Thanks for introducing me to a wonderful female artist who was such a visionary! That tent top with the soutache she's wearing in the opening photo is AMAZING! You can tell she had such a flair for life! And I love her artwork. So beautiful, so detailed and each painting tells a story. You did a terrific job with choosing perfect items! I think the sisters would let you be there personal shopper any day! Thank you so much for sharing this! I look forward to more from you in the future!

  • dirtygirldesigns

    dirtygirldesigns said 5 years ago

    I have to say, there should be a HUGE mention of the Stettheimer Dollhouse since it took up several years and contains several works of art found no place else including a painting (modern) that when they couldn't get the full size for a gallery show, they borrowed the one from the dollhouse.

  • neighborhoodvintage

    neighborhoodvintage said 5 years ago

    FASCINATING!!! Don't you dare see my shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/neighborhoodvintage?ref=pr_shop_more

  • PassionFlowerVintage

    PassionFlowerVintage said 5 years ago

    What a great article, beautifully written & so many great finds! Thank you for sharing!

  • DistortedEarth

    DistortedEarth said 5 years ago

    Really enjoyed this! Thank you! Awesome job!

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 5 years ago

    This is so amazing and imaginative!

  • CurlysQuilts

    CurlysQuilts said 5 years ago

    What a great article! I love her artwork!

  • Lilsugarskulls

    Lilsugarskulls said 5 years ago

    Tremendous collection! I love it. Thanks for Sharing.♥

  • yiayias

    yiayias said 5 years ago

    absolutely wonderful article thanks for all the work you did for us to enjoy

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 5 years ago

    Beautiful, very interesting article! Love the photo's and finds! Thanks!

  • kararane

    kararane said 5 years ago

    hi Cate- so many "hidden" women artists past and present..thank YOU (& Etsy) for highlighting this great. Unfortunately, it is still a man's art world out there....(J.Saltz often points out the art world is more conservative than the staunchest republican & 80% of solo shows in Chelsea NYC are by men.) congrats* 2 U for persevering with your art.

  • knitfitt

    knitfitt said 5 years ago

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I think the doll house is deserving of its very own blog post. As it was, I had limited space and my piece was about Florine as an artist, not Carrie. It is my hope that readers will follow some of the links provided and learn more about these very interesting women.

  • kathyjohnson3

    kathyjohnson3 said 5 years ago

    Love the resin bracelet!

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl said 5 years ago

    Thank you Cate, for showcasing this artist! As an art history grad myself...it's refreshing to see that talented women of art are being re-discovered all the time..... I just knew they had to exist ;-)

  • Furiousdreams

    Furiousdreams said 5 years ago

    Thanks Cate- I'd love to see you do an ongoing series devoted to women and artisan works. I'm sure you've read Whitney Chadwick's excellent 'Women, Art and Society'. It's always interesting to see links between fine art and the more traditional 'women's work'. Stettheimer's pieces remind me of Maira Kalman.

  • BanglewoodSupplies
  • fromtherealmofwatson

    fromtherealmofwatson said 5 years ago

    Interesting and always inspiring to know about great women in history.

  • LANCERIKA

    LANCERIKA said 5 years ago

    To all the women artists: let's keep on pushing higher and Higher to achieve the visibility that Men artists get ... We deserve recognition for our Artistic achievements! merci for this awesome inspiration!

  • abbyberkson

    abbyberkson said 5 years ago

    What an interesting post, thank you!

  • TidbitsOfColor

    TidbitsOfColor said 5 years ago

    Nice. Love the old paintings!

  • lunahoo

    lunahoo said 5 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this artist!

  • NatalieDrest

    NatalieDrest said 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing! Not often that knitting is featured in a painting in a well regarded museum!

  • LovelyLexxi

    LovelyLexxi said 5 years ago

    beautiful! I love it (:

  • thebeachhousegallery

    thebeachhousegallery said 5 years ago

    Nice article. More empowerment to women artists, hurray! Thanks for sharing. Inez Dunn

  • unmisted

    unmisted said 5 years ago

    I love learning about artist that are overlooked but are amazing. Especially since I'm currently majoring in Art History. Thank you for sharing this.

  • TanteAnnies

    TanteAnnies said 5 years ago

    Cate, this is an exquisite article. I love it. Going back later tonight to read in more detail. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • zazuandvioletshats

    zazuandvioletshats said 5 years ago

    Have always loved her. Great vignettes with her paintings. Well done!

  • costanzavintagecraft

    costanzavintagecraft said 5 years ago

    Thanks! I'd never heard of her, but will be taking the time to read about her thru the link you provided!

  • quinnknits

    quinnknits said 5 years ago

    I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of Florine Stettheimer and I searched extensively for female artists in the college library (many years ago and no internet). So thank you for introducing me to her work. A lovely collection of items and very evocative of a bohemian artists life.

  • lunagris

    lunagris said 4 years ago

    very interesting. I have always loved art history and this is a nice refreshing piece to read.

  • annyschoo

    annyschoo said 4 years ago

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I am often fascinated with "old things" and it's so interesting to see your ideas of present and the past through art. and I am honored to have my linen pleated dress on one of the pictures.. best, anny

  • courtneyleivers

    courtneyleivers said 4 years ago

    "Heat" is one of my favorite paintings.

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