Sometime around 1750, Mary Pickering (1733-1805) finished her embroidered landscape picture. Pickering’s embroidery belongs to a largely ignored genre of artworks produced by white women from wealthy families in the British Atlantic world. Sometimes measuring more than four feet wide, always brilliantly colored and elaborately framed, embroidered overmantels rivaled paintings in both cost and cultural significance. Their pervasiveness in the households of wealthy Americans made them a prominent feature in colonial visual culture.
Invisible to art historians because of embroidery’s status as craft, scholars of early America and material culture also overlook these magnificent, complex objects in favor of small samplers. Yet, women produced these large embroidered landscapes in a time of great environmental and epistemological change. These rich sources of evidence significantly extend and complicate our understanding of women’s knowledge of nature and how they represented it in this period.
This talk will explore Pickering’s embroidered landscape to show how women represented their interest in, and knowledge of, nature.
ANDREA PAPPAS earned her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Southern California and is now Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Santa Clara University. She has published on Mark Rothko, Jewish American art and visual culture, American women art dealers, the pedagogy of art history, and the Boston “Fishing Lady” embroideries. Her current book project, Embroidering the Landscape: Art, Women, and the Environment in British North America, 1740-1770, examines embroidery from an environmental history/eco-critical perspective. Her work has been supported by the NEH and a long-term fellowship at Winterthur Museum and Library.