Monday, May 2, 2011

A comparison of the works of Impressionist women artists to the women artists of today

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Impressionism was the art movement from about the 1860s to the early twentieth century. Impressionist women were painted during a time of great discovery and aristocracy, and many of the women painted appear to be middle or upper class. These women were expected to play the role of daughter and eventually a good wife. Furthermore, women were also relatively inferior to the men. Now, women are generally accepted more in society equal to men and have become more independent and financially secure. With the continual growth of the media and photography, women are portrayed differently.


During the Impressionist art movement it was difficult for women to establish themselves as artists and to do so they had to give up conventional family life. Mary Cassatt took years to be publicly acknowledged and accepted, whereas women like Tracey Emin can often have more opportunity to become part of the contemporary art scene. However, Cassatt was driven by her determination to become a successful woman artist of which she achieved and was reputable as one of the era’s finest painters. In the late nineteenth century there were many constraints on professional women artists such as no free state education for women in fine art, and many art schools did not admit women. In fact, women were thought to be better off at home making and mothering.


Women portrayed in media often seem to revolve around the idea of sex and are used as objects in which to promote and sell. In today’s society, the two ideas of sex and women can often not go unnoticed. If you switch on the television, there is often a provocative woman enticing viewers to a certain product. Even the general lifestyles of women have evolved. Clothes have changed, careers have changed. In fact, the scene of a party of women relaxing in the garden all day is almost never shown in art. With the development of photography, women are shown in the flesh. Women are able to voice opinions more and give contributions to society.


Perhaps the subject matter for these Impressionist women were similar because women then were assigned mainly to painting flowers, fruits, still life, portraits and genre scenes. However, recent women artists such as Paula Rego have also used women as a subject matter. The Impressionists tended to paint what they saw but Rego manages to convey physical and mental states. Rego once said, “Everything was pregnant, full of tits and bums and so on…” This relates to the women she portrays in her art, paying attention to love and sex rather than the trivialities of everyday things. The subject matter today has been opened for women and Rego even makes her women appear dominating, summoning men and showing greater authority. Although, women Impressionists would have been scrutinised for that, their subject matter seemed a bit impersonal with women doing generally uninteresting tasks. In comparison to Impressionist women painters, I found that Rego’s work is much more personal and deep featuring feelings of conflicting emotions that give a great intensity to the artwork.


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In 14, Rego made the series ‘Dog Women’ on hearing the story of a woman who lived alone with her pets in a big house surrounded by sand dunes. One day, this woman heard a child’s voice caused by the wind crossing the dunes into the chimney, telling her to kill her animals. The woman did so in a mad frenzy and ate them. Rego was reminded of this when drawing a woman who modelled in a position similar to a snarling squat. The story was something of an inspiration with the dog women being symbolic but did not end up as the resulting narrative. Rego seems to openly paint these visceral, sexual creatures and accentuates their physical forms by using pastel colours. The 14 “Scavengers” again conveys this image of eroticism that is clearly evident in the media today with women being bodily and sexually thrilling.


Again, on my visit to Tate Modern I discovered Paula Rego’s “Bride,” which was created in 14 with the use of pastels on paper. The Bride appears to be positioned on the floor in an interpreted provocative pose. One of the similarities with women Impressionists is Rego’s use of light, tone and shadow. The picture is of a rather dark tone but the shine of the wedding dress acts as the focal point of the picture. Different emotions are portrayed by the bride who seems to look serious but with a blank expression. Furthermore the bride is in a vulnerable position but also looks pure and innocent. This work is typical of Rego and I admire her technique of pastels and her ability to show women in different states of mind.


In the Tate Modern, one of the photographs that summed up real life was “Nan one month after being battered”- Nan Goldin. The photograph depicts the real world in which we live in and different things occur. Impressionist women could never capture real life emotions that their subjects went through. This photograph shows the woman as a real human being not just subject matter idly sitting there in a static position for the painting.





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