Image of Raymond Duncan, c 1930. Courtesy Alexandra Palmer.

Alexandra Palmer will present at the Modern Design History Seminar on Wednesday, October 24, at 6 pm. Her talk is entitled “‘A Complete Technique of Living’: Raymond Duncan (1874–1966).”

American Raymond Duncan was a fixture on the Paris art scene from 1900 until he died at age 92. He was a larger than life figure, a proponent of Hellenism draped in home-spun and hand-woven tunic and chlamys, with barefeet and home-made sandals, a weaver, artist, graphic designer, architect, poet, playwright, printer, publisher, dancer, philosopher, activist, pacifist, and vegetarian. Duncan developed an original, hybrid Greek-inspired lifestyle he called Actionalism, which valued self-sufficiency and the laborer and labor of making products over production. A central tenant was a healthy body that countered the mechanical ideas of scientific management proposed by fellow Americans, Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford. This talk will introduce and contextualize a range of Duncan’s work and life.

Dr. Alexandra Palmer is the Nora E. Vaughan Senior Curator, Textiles & Costume at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). She received her BA in Art History from the University of Toronto (1979); her MA in Costume and Textiles from New York University, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1981); and her PhD in Design History from the University of Brighton (1994). She joined the ROM in 1996 and is responsible for over 44,000 artifacts in the collection of western fashionable dress and textiles. She has curated several exhibitions including Christian Dior (2017), Fashion Follows Form: Design for Sitting (2014), winner of the 2014 Richard Martin Exhibition Award, and Elite Elegance: Couture Fashion in the 1950s (2003). She is also Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, Department of Art. Dr. Palmer has authored two award-winning books, Dior: A New Look, A New Enterprise 1947–57 (V&A Publications, 2009), honored with the 2010 Millia Davenport Publication Award, and Couture & Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s (UBC Press, 2001), winner of the Clio Award for Ontario history. Her forthcoming volume, Christian Dior: History & Modernity, 1947–1957 (ROM Press, 2018), focuses on the ROM’s haute couture collection to explain the success of the New Look in the first decade of the house of Dior. She has edited several books and has also contributed to numerous international museum catalogues and scholarly journals. Dr. Palmer is also working on two other books: Canadian Fashion Icons, focusing on the ROM’s collection, and another, which explored the life and work of Raymond Duncan. Her current research, Recuperating Fashion 1700–2000, is funded by the Social Science Humanities Research Council of Canada and explores the extended wear of fashions.