Dr Claire O’Mahony

  • Regional identity and nationhood in the history of design, craft and art
  • The politics of production: handicraft and industrial processes
  • The aesthetics of modern decoration reconciling nature and the machine age


My research centres on the history of decoration in France between 1870 and 1968. The relationships between materiality, design writing and the communication of private and public identity have led me to investigate the role of decorative objects and environments in forging Republican and regional cultural politics. My publications examine a variety of creative production including murals, glass, furniture, jewellery, tapestry, interior and garden design and exhibition scenography. Further questions that interest me are the ways in which decoration has been formulated as an ideological construct and gendered practice as well as moral and pragmatic dilemmas within industrial and handicraft production processes and sympathies and tensions between pantheistic organicism, natural science and the machine age. 

My current project is an interdisciplinary cultural history examining how designed objects and environments embodied rival French identities since 1870. The argument focuses on the local creative industries of three borderland spaces: glass produced during the annexation and post-1918 recuperation of Alsace-Lorraine; tapestry woven in Aubusson in the central region of the Creuse which became a crossroads between zones during the 1940-4 Occupation and interior design for the international border spaces of transport design and high office in the 1960s. 

  • A Cultural History of Furniture: The Modern Age

  • Renaissance and Resistance: Modern French Tapestry and Collective Craft 10.1080/17496772.2016.1249085

  • "‘Urbi et orbi’: decentralization and design in Nancy’s International Exposition of eastern France 1909"

  • War within the Walls: Conflict and Citizenship in the Murals of the Hôtel deVille, Paris

  • Cubist Chameleons: André Mare, the comoufleurs, and the canons of art history

  • More

For student profiles see: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/dphil-students?subject=DPhil+in+Architectural+History

  • Emma Anderson
  • Kay Carson
  • David Beardmore

I would like to hear from potential DPhil students researching the history of modern art, craft design and architecture in France since 1870 and masters students regarding the History of Design.