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Woman reclining on a beach

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and the changing status of women in the 1920s

Dora Webb (1886-1973)

Phyllis Neilson-Terry as 'Trilby' c.1923

RCIN 927473

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Trilby O’Ferrall was an artist’s model and laundress portrayed in George du Maurier’s highly influential and popular novel, Trilby, published in 1894. The novel’s depiction of the artists’ milieu of 1850s Paris is a source for many of our received notions about the bohemian lifestyle. Dora Webb’s watercolour is based on one of Du Maurier’s illustrations. Set within an artist’s studio, Trilby’s defiant stance, masculine mismatched attire and bare feet speak of a carefree independent spirit. She can perhaps be seen as a trailblazer for the relatively liberated woman of the 1920s. The writer and critic Luc Sante wrote that the novel ‘affected the habits of American youth, particularly young women, who derived from it the courage to call themselves artists and “bachelor girls”, to smoke cigarettes and drink Chianti’.