Ethel A. Stephens’ 'at home': art education for girls and women

Research paper by Rebecca Kummerfeld

Indexed on: 13 May '16Published on: 18 Aug '15Published in: History of Education Review


History of Education Review, Volume 44, Issue 2, October 2015. Purpose This paper explores the professional biography of Ethel A Stephens, examining her career as an artist and a teacher in Sydney between 1890 and 1920. Design/methodology/approach Accounts of artists' lives and work in this period typically dismiss their teaching as a means to pay the bills. This article focuses attention on Stephen’s teaching and considers how this combined with her artistic practice to influence her students. Using a fragmentary record of a successful female artist and teacher of her day, this article considers the role of art education and a career in the arts for respectable middle class women. Findings Stephen’s actions and experiences show the ways she negotiated between the public and private sphere. Close examination of her ‘at home’ exhibitions demonstrates one way in which these worlds came together as sites that brought together her identity as artist, as teacher and as a respectable middle class woman. Originality/value This paper offers insight into the ways women negotiated the Sydney art scene and found opportunities for art education outside of the established modes.