The Home, Decoration and Glass, and education
Hi Melissa. I loved your presentation: thank you so much for a rich and thought-provoking talk.
I have a couple of questions about these magazines' pedagogical aims.
- You argued that The Home aimed to raise the tastes of its readers using the best production values, and that Decoration and Glass aimed to educate its readers about architecture (among other things). I wonder if you could say a little more about how each magazine sought to improve or educate its readers. Was this intention implicit or explicit in these magazines? In some of the magazines I've looked at, there are articles which explicitly try to teach readers how to appreciate modern art and design: do you see this here too?
- You mentioned these magazines' strong sense of civic duty. Could you say a little more about what this looked like? Was cultivating this sense of duty part of the magazines’ implicit pedagogical mission?
I just wanted to echo what Emma said about the richness of your talk, Melissa. Emma's question about the education of taste also resonated for me (I was thinking of a potential comparison with the American 'House Beautiful' which as you'll know likewise ranges beyond the house/home to talk about towns, architecture, modernity, national visual identity).
Also I think your emphasis on "the work through which the magazines were made" is very valuable. I agree we could do more to look at who contributed to magazines. Would you include in this category all those uncredited contributors - designers, advertising managers, sub-editors, writers of anonymous text - or those whose names appear in very tiny type in mastheads? Often though, it's very hard to find out about all this invisible labour.
Hi Emma and Faye. Thanks for your kind words. I'll respond to you both in one post if that's ok.
Yes, the magazines did explicitly articulate their aims to improve readers in different ways. The editor of Decoration and Glass, Walter Glover, described in the first issue how the magazine’s plan was about ‘educating people to present-day influences in home-building and particularly the progress made in this field by Australians.’ (1 May 1935, p. 5) I don’t know that I would use the words pedagogical mission to describe their approach, in that it wasn’t formalised or systematised. It was more about education and improvement through information sharing in a general sense.
In reflecting on his experience with The Home, founding editor Syd Ure Smith was also quite direct when wrote: ‘Amongst the chief objects of The Home was the idea of improving taste in domestic architecture and interior architecture’. (Sydney Ure Smith, ‘The Story of the Home’, The Home (March 1930) 39). The Home had countless articles intended to inform and educate, ranging from articles by academics about foreign cultures (eg Arthur Sadler’s article about Japanese tea ceremony ‘The Way of Tea’) to stories about international politics. They also published articles about education, eg ‘Women in the new world – educating our girls’ (Jan 1933), ‘The Advance of Education’(Jan 1940), ‘Education and the girl’ (Jan 1941), ‘What do you get from education’ (Jan 1942).
The founding editor and publisher also ran Art an Australia magazine, and did have particular taste. The Home did push a certain agenda in relation to modern art and design. They weren’t exactly avant-garde. You can read more about that very topic in Nancy Underhill, D. H., Making Australian Art 1916-49 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).
In terms of the sense of civic duty, this idea is underpinned by their external focus – the idea of building a city, civic pride, supporting workers and industry, being active socially and in the community, and being responsible to others beyond your immediate family. In this way there are some interesting parallels with the American House Beautiful, as you note Faye.
Re the issue of the work of producing magazines that you raised Fay. It is very tricky to investigate this topic. Decoration and Glass very rarely even attributed their visual content to anyone. The Home is a different story. Publisher Ure Smith seemed to understand that attributing the contributions by designers, photographers, sub-editors (male and female) and writers was a selling point of the magazine. As a result, The Home is an extraordinary repository of commercial work by many well known Australian artists and writers. One thing we don't know much about, however, is the working conditions around these contributions. I would love to know what they were paid, how they were hired, how certain jobs were allocated to particular photographers and writers, and whether the magazine accepted proposals from these contributors or whether they tended to seek them out for commissions. Were women paid the same as men? Was Kagiyama paid the same as Anglo-Australians? The answers to those and other questions remain hidden, sadly - documents that have been thrown away or lost over the years.
Thanks for a really thought-provoking presentation, Melissa. I love the way in which your discussion of race and labour "behind the scenes" in these magazines brings out a different and complimentary dimension to the work Susann and I have been doing on The Home and its relationship with portraying the Asia-Pacific. Very rich work.