Christine Olson wins prize for paper on 'The Grammar of Ornament'

March 23, 2021

PhD Candidate Christine Olson has won the Mervat Zahid Cultural Foundation Prize for her talk, “The Grammar of Ornament and the Design of Nineteenth-Century Design.” The prize is awarded to the best paper/s presented at the Annual Graduate Student Symposium in Nineteenth-Century Art, co-sponsored by the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art (AHNCA) and the Dahesh Museum of Art (New York). The symposium was held virtually on March 20-21 2021 after having been postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

Christine’s paper, based on a chapter of her dissertation, explores the making and materiality of Owen Jones’s compendium of global and historical surface decoration, The Grammar of Ornament (1856). She argues that this book was not only a work about design, but a monumental design project in its own right. Through a close reading of a single plate, ‘Persian No. 4,’ Christine shows how Jones’s chromolithography and plate layouts activate his lessons for the modern designer, while simultaneously naturalizing a logic of imperial violence through the re-mediation of objects appropriated from Britain’s colonized and historical ‘others’. By focusing on questions of medium and process, this project opens new ways of apprehending the entanglements of imperialism, industry, and capitalism at the heart of the British Design Reform.