Francis Winograd
Furnishing an identity: Philip Weiss, an émigré’s contribution to Modernist furniture design in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1950-1975

Advisor: Lynn Chalmers
Internal Examiner: Susan Close
External Examiner: Oliver Botar

This thesis focuses on the career of Philip Weiss in the furniture industry in Winnipeg, Manitoba, from 1950-1975, as the exemplar of a larger paradigm of émigré or foreigner culture, with a strong affinity to alienation, intellectualism, and Modernism. The thesis contends that the Jewish émigré was attracted to Modernist principles because of its abstract structure, rejection of tradition, and avant-garde framework. Jewish individuals became prominent in the arts associated with Modernism, such as design, architecture, photography, and painting. Modernism enabled artists to express themselves without adopting conventional subjects, forms, attitudes, and techniques, and made it well-suited for the émigrés’ position in the twentieth century. Modernism, with its attachment to intellectualism and exploration of new technologies and materials, was a natural fit for Weiss. Weiss arrived in Canada as a Holocaust survivor and immigrant, and began to reshape the narrative of his life through the furnishing of his identity. He became a furniture designer and manufacturer, and acquired status and respect in his community. Modernism played a significant role in his personal and business life, and initiated a lifelong connection with its tenets of progress, innovation, and creativity

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