Paradigms of collecting from ethnography to documenting the individual artists: Grace Nicholson and the art history of Native Nortwestern California basketry during the Arts and Crafts period, 1880-1930




Cadge, Catie Anne

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During the Arts and Crafts period, from about 1880 to 1930, popular perceptions of Native Americans and their basketry emphasized pristine cultures prior to the effects of contact with Europeans. Pasadena basketry collector and dealer Grace Nicholson used an ethnographic approach, along with mass-marketing, when selling Native Northwestern California baskets in order to cater to Arts and Crafts period collectors' expectations of traditional Indian baskets. In addition, Nicholson expanded her collecting methods to include documenting individual weavers in the field, though she rarely used this documentation as a sales strategy. Before Nicholson began traveling and collecting baskets directly from Native American weavers in Northwestern California, basketry from this region was almost always collected or sold as the work of an anonymous weaver. This approach—what I refer to as the ethnographic paradigm in the dissertation—featured the traditional, pre-contact context of the basketry, but not the documentation of individual innovation. Grace Nicholson started a new paradigm or model for collecting Native Northwestern California basketry through her select documentation of individual artists. Nicholson's documentation of Elizabeth Hickox, master weaver of Northwestern California baskets during the Arts and Crafts period, has been thoroughly addressed in Art Historical scholarship. I argue that Nicholson also recorded information about other Northwestern California weavers from Hickox's generation, such as Yurok weaver Nellie Cooper. In this dissertation, I demonstrate that the Nicholson archival collection, along with other important archival sources, can be used by researchers to help identify lesser-known Northwestern California weavers from the turn of the 20th century today.



Indian basket makers, Indian baskets