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McGill-Queen's University Press
"Seduced by Modernity is three things in one: a most remarkable, vivid biography of a fascinating person; an analysis of the oeuvre of an important artist-photographer; and an extremely successful study of the interrelations of twentieth century art, gender, and mass culture, interlaced superbly with supporting theoretical passages. This is an extraordinary accomplishment." Lora Carney, University of Toronto
Seduced by Modernity is the first book devoted to the life and work of Canadian-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. Seduced by Modernity makes available for the first time an extensive representation of Watkins' work in high-quality reproduction as part of an exemplary interdisciplinary study that honours an intrepid Canadian artist who refused to be confined by borders, convention, or gender.