Reflections on Chadwick’s Introduction

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8 responses

  1. In comparison to other classes I have taken in the past, I think that this text touches on themes from my Women’s Studies classes, but in more depth. I have explored the idea of the woman as “Other” in a french literature class.

    I had not previously considered the economic benefits of attributing a female artist’s work to a famous male artist. I am surprised that the writing of Simone de Beauvoir is not mentioned, especially when referring to her idea that women must write about women.

    I found the connection between portraits of women and make-up interesting, and I wonder how far that extends into the history of portraiture.

    I am wondering what the solution is to the sexism of the term “Old Masters.” Is there a politically correct way to include all genders in a “Great Masters” category? Or are all terms that we have used in the past too connected to sexist ideals?

    • The connection to economics…..linking the purse strings to the status of women artists and their works….is so profound. Do you know John Berger’s 1972 book Ways of Seeing? He connects the commodification of art to the commodification of women and the representations of women. He basically “exposes the social underpinnings of aesthetic judgments by analyzing visual representations as a means of conferring status and conveying a sense of power to the viewer.” In my mind this spills over to women artists and the idea of the “old masters,” which is associated with mastery or possession of this special ability to paint, etc. This masculinist discourse is not about to allocate mastery to the happy homemaker who has been relegated to the realm of nature (vs. culture), the private (vs. public), and leisure (vs. work). Thus, in strides Feminism on a white (another stereotype!) horse! In the feminist critique of art history, there was first the need to move from the notion of a female sensibility to a consideration of representations of gender differences, and finally to dismantle the ideological bonds that fix social categories and social roles. At the same time, it was important that women not separate themselves for “special treatment”—and thereby ghettoize themselves in the category of women’s art, etc. One question I have for you all re: the aesthetics of gender—is feminist art a result of a feminist consciousness? Hmmmmm… much to think about! So it occurs to me that I may not be the one who should be muttering aloud on this blog. Over to you, 304.

  2. I thought it was really interesting in the Preface to see the representations of Kauffman and Moser. It got me thinking though, why even bother representing them in the Academy at all? Chadwick says that “[W]e become most aware of what is not represented or spoken” and that “the omissions and silences… reveal the power of cultural ideology,” which also had me wondering what it would mean if both women were absent from the painting. So I guess what I’m asking is: Is it better during these early years of art to be merely a representation (which would at least acknowledge your presence) or absent all together (which might instill ?

    I also thought the part about Robusti and how scholarship recasted her in the role of subject was very intriguing. It’s very interesting to see how scholarship can transform the female artist from producer to representation.

    I’m also in the same boat as Lola. I had no idea that monetary value influenced the attribution of art!

  3. During the beginning pages Chadwick states that Robusti was living in a time in which there was “a changing ideal femininity that now emphasized musical and artistic skills for women, as well as some education.” (18) I think this ties in with the notion that women should be well-versed and have elementary knowledge about a lot of things. One should be good at painting and be able to recite poems, but not be a “master” of painting or critique things men have written.

    On page 28: “Throughout the history of Western art there has been a tendency to exoticize the woman artist as an exception, and then paradoxically to use her unique status as a weapon to undermine her achievement.” So true!

    When reading about Edmonia Lewis’s lack of formal training I was reminded of Linda Noclin’s article “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”. I think this article is relevant to a lot of the issues and ideas that Chadwick touches on in this introduction.

  4. Good discussion! Kauffmann and Moser on the wall in Zoffany’s painting become an object lesson in how women have been silenced in various ways over the years… !

    And Linda Nochlin’s article intersects in a number of ways with Chadwick’s introduction and I debated whether or not to include that work…

  5. Perhaps what was most intriguing in this reading was the practice of falsely assigning and reassigning art to men or women and the interpretations of that art. This is seen particularly in the case of the three Davids. The alteration of opinion in Portrait of Mademoiselle Charlotte du Val d’Onges is, perhaps, the most outstanding of the three paintings. “Andre’ Maurois…concluded…that it was ‘a perfect picture, unforgettable’” (23). This, of course, changed as soon as it was discovered that the painting should be attributed to a female artist!

    The use of “feminine” language when describing works by women was surprising. Although I always knew that a great woman artist was seen as an exception, I did not know that opinions on the art itself changed. That a painting could go from “perfect” to “lacking structure” and “cleverly conceal[ing] weakness” is unbelievable.

    When examining these “reassigned” works I become curious about what other works have been falsely attributed to male counterparts. I just cannot wait to really delve into this course!

  6. I am very excited about exploring the language used to talk about women artists. The discussion of Lacan and naming stood out to me the most. I wonder if any female artists ever adopted male pseudonyms in order to achieve recognition. Last semester in my women’s studies senior seminar I used a postmodern feminist lens to review articles about women artists, so this is already an area of interest for me. I’m excited to explore new perspectives on this topic.

    Chadwick made a distinction between women as producers of art and women in representations, but what about women who do both? Not only does self-portraiture blur this line, but I would argue that models have some sort of autonomy or creative power that ought to be discussed.

    One spot of tension that I also raised from the article about African art is the difficult relationship between “craft” and “fine art.” What is art? (Who decides?) But more importantly, what do the women making the objects think? In my own creations I consider my crocheted hats a craft, but my ceramic bowls and cups art. Why? Probably because that is how it has been presented to me by the art cannon. I’m also excited to discuss the tension between art and craft.

  7. Hi All,

    I’m re-posting an approximation of my original comment.

    I was interested the question that Chadwick poses in the preface about the “relationship between the ‘craft’ and ‘fine art’ traditions for women.” I’m an avid knitter, though not nearly as skilled as my grandmother was. I’ve often wondered what makes her knitting/sewing/crocheting less of an art than the paintings that an uncle of mine produces. Both require an impressive amount of skill. One of differences that I often see is that ‘crafts’ tend to be more useful than ‘art.’ I could wear a crocheted dress but my mom couldn’t send me to school wearing a landscape watercolor. I also think that ‘fine arts’ have historically been dominated by men, and crafts are more in the domestic/female sphere. Why is this?

    A New York Times article from this summer touches on an interesting movement: yarn bombing, which “… takes that most matronly craft (knitting) and that most maternal of gestures (wrapping something cold in a warm blanket) and transfers it to the concrete and steel wilds of the urban streetscape.” It isn’t directly relavent to the reading, but I think it is a fascinating example of what could be described as an attempt to redefine a traditionally domestic, feminine craft as (public) art. The article is fairly short but worth the read:

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