Transforming the Ordinary: Women in American Book Cover Design

The Farnsworth Art Museum delves into the world of book cover design for its first exhibition honoring Maine’s 200th birthday

Attributed to the Decorative Designers. Maine of the Sea and Pines by Nathan Haskell Dole and Irwin Leslie Gordon, 1928, published by L.C. Page and Company
Bertha Stuart. The Open Road: A Little Book for Wayfarers by Edward Verrall Lucas, 1905, published by Henry Holy & Company
Ida May Rockwell. Sweeter Still Than This by Adah Louise Sutton, 1905, published by Saalfield Publishing Company
Sarah Wyman Whitman. The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1893, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Amy Richards. The Lost Word; A Christmas Legend of Long Ago by Henry Van Dyke, 1898, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons

Transforming the Ordinary: Women in American Book Cover Design is currently on view at the Farnsworth Art Museum, an exhibition that explores the pinnacle of book cover design in America from the 1890s through the 1930s. The designers embraced the aesthetics of both the Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movements when designing their book covers. “During this period, women created thou-sands of book cover designs for the major trade publishers whose books were intended for the mass market,” states a press release from the museum. “These designs ranged from simple one-color stamped designs to more elaborate multicolor designs, some of which were stunningly beautiful works of art in themselves.” The decorative covers in Transforming the Ordinary were created by some of the best known and most prolific designers at the time, including Margaret Armstrong, Amy Sacker, Bertha Stuart, Sarah Wyman Whitman, and a group known as the Decorative Designers.

Transforming the Ordinary: Women in American Book Cover Design is the first in a series of exhibitions celebrating Maine’s bicentennial at the Farnsworth Art Museum. Under the banner First to Hail the Rising Sun: Maine through the Eyes of Its Artists, the series will allow visitors to explore Maine through the museum’s nationally renowned collection via specific exhibitions and audio tours. Transforming the Ordinary is on view at the museum’s Library Gallery until March 2021.

Organized by Registrar Angela Waldron

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