Saturday, 31 July 2021


History of Art Dolls

Art dolls are models of human or humanoid characters. Historically, they have been used for rituals almost everywhere in the world. The earliest documented dolls are from the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, and Egypt. From crude to elaborate art, art dolls steadily became widely accepted. Traditional dolls made of wood and clay are found in Asia, America, Africa, and Europe. In the 15th century, Germany began modern dolls manufacturing and new materials like porcelain and plastic were introduced and, due to the durability, low cost, and ease of production, led to the mass production of dolls. In the 19th century, art dolls were made of porcelain and their bodies were made with leather, cloth, sawdust, a mix of pulp, or other composite materials like papier-maché. 

In the 20th century, art dolls began to be classified as ‘high art'. Greer Lankton, an East village artist, became popular for her theatrical window displays of anorexic and drug-addicted dolls in the 1980s.

Papier-mâché was a very popular substance used in the making of dolls. It consists of paper pulp and some other substances. Although dolls made from papier-mâché had been in existence earlier, they were not so popular until the 19th century. One of the very famous dolls made of papier-mâché was ‘Nina’, made by Ludwig Greiner, an artist from Philadelphia, America. The doll's head was patented- the first of its kind in America.

In some cultures, art dolls were used for rituals- they were considered too powerful for children to handle or play with, while, in other cultures, the dolls were used to educate the children and to teach their cultural heritage. In Africa, art dolls differ in design and size according to area and custom and they are often used for spiritual purposes. Generally, using a doll or effigy to cast a spell on someone can be traced back to Native American, African and European cultures. In European folk magic, poppet dolls are used to replace a person for casting spells on such a person.