New Scholarship: Toni Armstrong on Katherine Dreier

May 24, 2019

By Nancy Kuhl

“’The Nation which Rejects the Home’: Katherine Dreier and a New Museum for the American Home.” Clark University senior honors thesis by Toni Armstrong.
Project Summary: Katherine Dreier founded the Société Anonyme in 1920 to educate the American public about art of the modern era.  Dreier was a zealous advocate, patron, and collector of art throughout her life.  Through exhibitions and lectures, she constructed the Société Anonyme to be a new kind of museum with emphasis on the home.  Dreier was inspired by the philosophies of John Ruskin, William Morris, and the British Arts and Crafts movement.  With the tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement in mind, Dreier organized Société Anonyme exhibitions to blend high art and decorative art and to advocate for a more personal, more democratic mode of art viewing. Ultimately, Dreier curated the Société Anonyme exhibits to teach visitors how to decorate their own homes with art.  This form of display practice offered a decentralized museum, grounded in individual American homes rather than a singular institution.  Though the Société Anonyme dissolved in 1950, Dreier’s mission for the organization offers an insight into the philosophies behind the first American modern arts institutions.
Image: John Schiff, Interior view of Katherine S. Dreier’s West Redding home, “The Haven” Yale University Art Gallery: 1952.30.5
Toni Armstrong ‘19 has just graduated summa cum laude from Clark University with Highest Honors in Art History.