Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Alpert Gallery of Currier & Ives, First Floor
Just as contemporary television and other media portray and define popular culture today, the ideals of Victorian culture permeated the visual media of that era, often in the form of hand-colored lithographs designed by the publishing firm of Currier & Ives.
This exhibition shows women engaged in family life, maintaining the home and wearing the latest fashions. The care of home and family was seen as the duty and fulfillment of all women, and Currier & Ives carefully depicted women as nurturers.
However, Currier & Ives could not ignore important events such as the Civil War and the early Women’s Rights Movement. Instead, they chose to depict popular trends and political movements in a guarded, sentimental and often overly-optimistic manner, portraying women as a stabilizing influence during troubling times.
Currier & Ives presented a view of women that ranged from idyllic and sensual to amusing. Though these portrayals may seem far from the “real housewives” of the twenty-first century, they reflected the early foundations of the cultural phenomenon of the American housewife.