Reviving Frances Simpson Stevens

By Maura Tangum (Davidson College, Class of 2019) & Sarah Gompper (Davidson College, Class of 2018)


Although today Frances Simpsons Stevens has become a largely forgotten and voiceless figure in the historical avant-garde, our project highlights her significance in her own era as an an avant-garde thinker, influential American artist, and woman navigating a male-dominated movement. We thought the best way to do achieve these goals was to bring Stevens and her work back to life through illustration and imaginative interpretation of primary resources.

As we researched and built this website, we realized we had a second primary goal: to legitimize illustration as a scholarly tool. Art is too often disregarded as a way of learning.

Our website provides an introduction to Francis Simpson Stevens through an intimate, candid, digital “home tour” represented through hand-drawn, scanned images. The text that accompanies each illustration aims to give Stevens a voice and personality that reflect the spunky, aloof, confident, high-brow aura she was said to possess in life.

Drawing of studio by Maura Tangum
Imaginative drawing of Frances Simpson Stevens’ art studio, (c) Maura Tangum, 2017.

The way in which users navigate Stevens’s virtual Florentine apartment mirrors the way in which one might “snoop” around a stranger’s home to learn more about them. We believe that exploration and observation are effective ways of learn about other people. …So snoop away! Francis has a keen ear though, and she’ll hear you as soon as you crack open the front door. As a newcomer to Florence, however, she’s eager to meet new friends and she’ll no doubt be a welcoming host.