Authors Talk about Artist Margaret Watkins

Authors Talk about Artist Margaret Watkins

March 6, 2014 | Published by MMA

Seduced by Modernity

Please join us for a Public Talk  at the Museum
The Life and Art of Margaret Watkins
Thursday, March 13, 6 – 7 pm

Presented by
Mary O’Connor, Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
Katherine Tweedie, Professor emeritus, Studio Arts, Concordia University
The co-authors of Seduced by Modernity: The Photography of Margaret Watkins


Seduced by Modernity is the first book devoted to the life and work of Hamilton-born modernist photographer Margaret Watkins. Best known for art and advertising photography executed in New York in the 1920s, Watkins was active in the Clarence White school of photography and a participant in the shift from pictorialism to modernism.

Mary O’Connor and Katherine Tweedie tell the story of a dedicated artist in difficult circumstances whose working life spanned a Victorian upbringing in Hamilton, Ontario, and the witnessing of the first Soviet Five-Year Plan. The authors use feminist and historical questions as well as close readings of the photographs to relate Watkins’ work to questions of gender, modernity, and visual culture. Watkins’ modernism, which involved experimentation and a radical focus on form, transgressed boundaries of conventional, high-art subject matter. Her focus was daily life and her photographs, whether an exploration of the objects in her New York kitchen or the public and industrial spaces of Glasgow, Paris, Cologne, Moscow, and Leningrad in the 1930s, strike a balance between abstraction and an evocation of the everyday, offering a unique gendered perspective on modernism and modernity.

This talk is presented as a complement to Margaret Watkins: Domestic Symphonies, an exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada, on view at the McMaster Museum of Art until May 3, 2014.

Admission is Free.