Surrealism and the Women thereof!

1.  What was wrong with the “femme-enfant” paradigm?

2.  In what role were women cast in the Surrealist movement?

3.  What is the subtext of Man Ray’s “Le Violin de Ingres?”

4.  Do you feel that Lee Miller’s contribution to art history is given its due?  Why or why not?

5.  Calling Dr. Freud:  Dorothea Tanning’s work, discuss!

6.  The pain of one’s physical condition seems to be a leitmotif in the work of Surrealist women’s art.  Do you agree, and if so, why do you think this surfaces at this point in history?

7.  How many Surrealist wives did Max Ernst have????  Leonara Carrington often featured white horses in her work. What do you think that symbolized for her?

8.  Frida Kahlo is often categorized as a Surrealist, though her works in many ways defy this label.  In what ways do you feel she conforms to this group of painters?

9.  In what ways did Surrealism serve women artists?  In what ways did it fail them?


Post-Collage Musings: Late Medieval Female Body and Later 19th- and 20th-Century Queries

1.  Reflections on the female body as it was so gloriously explored by Elina Gertsman on the day of Collage?  Any surprises that you would like to share?  I, for example, had no idea that Caesarian births generated the Anti-Christ (I don’t think I will tell my daughter).  As a member of the species of failed males, with my undesirable humors, et. al., I find it amazing that pregnancy is considered a favorable state!  Obviously, the positive spin on pregnancy is solely due to the role of the male in provoking it.

2.  So, where were we?  Comment on the uneasy relationship between Impressionism and women as artists and models.

3.  Do you agree with Chadwick’s comments regarding Mary Cassatt and her subject matter?

4.  In your opinion, does the conflation of Camille Claudel’s biography and her stylistic evolution pose the same dangers that we have discussed before in this course?

5.  Why is Suzanne Valadon such a unique artist/model/mother/wife in the history of art?  What did you notice in the contrast of Chadwick’s discussion of the figures of Valadon and those of Renoir?

6.  Discuss the meaning of “The Abandoned Doll.”

7.  Why are the graphic arts such an ideal medium for Kathe Kollwitz’s subject matter?  What other artists have successfully employed the same medium?

8.  Comment on some of the following relationships:  Paula Modersohn-Becker and Worpswede artists; Gabrielle Munter and Kandinsky; Sonia Delaunay and the Simultaneous; Popova and the newly industrialized world; Gwen John and Vermeer;

9.  What was Vanessa Bell’s greatest contribution in your opinion?

10.  Why is the life and art of Romaine Brooks so compelling?

11.  Was Hannah Hoch merely a token female in the Club Dada founded in 1918?  Why is “photomontage” such a paradigm shift in terms of visual solutions?

12.  In what ways is “Marlene” from 1930 a deconstruction of sexism?

Mme. de Pompadour as a non-patron of the Arts….

Rosie is our guide on this article.  Some thoughts:  Why did Donald Posner choose to study this subject?  How could Mme. de  Pompadour be both the champion of the Rococo and the new Neoclassical style?  If the author’s goal is to reassess the patron’s non-impact on the art scene, has he proceeded in a logical way?  How would you have approached this problem?  When Louis XV and Mme. de Pompadour became friends “without benefits” as it were, did art supplant the role of sex?  What was Mme. de Pompadour’s relationship to Tournehem? to Marigny?  Did Mme. de Pompadour have “an aesthetic” of her own?  If so,  where is it manifest?  Why is architecture so favored by the king?  Why does Mme. de Pompadour support the Ecole Militaire project?  The porcelain, the porcelain!  At last, do we see a hint of influence of Mme. de Pompadour? In considering the sculptures that Mme. de P. favored, what do you think of her taste?  Does she reside strongly in the Rococo camp?  Why do you think she favored Boucher’s portrait of her?  Finally, discuss the aspect of Mme. de Pompadour that was revealed by her avid interest and ability in gem cutting.

The “Curse!”

Lola is our guide on this provocative article on Sin, Salvation, and the Menstrual Cycle in the Middle Ages.  Just a few thoughts:  Yikes!  “What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable (sic) punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors….”   The charge of being more carnal than men of course stems from that day in the garden of Eden.  But what do you make of Gregory’s conceit that sin is committed in three ways?  Again, this leads us back to the identification of women with nature (flesh) and men with mind and spirit (culture).  How does the definition of menstruation intersect with Marian piety?  Why does the stain threaten Mary’s Bodily Assumption into heaven?  How do medieval theologians get around the fact that Mary lactates, and does so copiously at that?  How do medieval exegetical writers get around the fact that Mary is in a sense the last in a line of female fertility goddesses? What is the Dominican position on Mary’s physiology?  How does Albertus Magnus reconcile Aristotle’s conclusions about the lifespan of men and women with the contradictory data culled from the 13th century? How does the Virgin unwittingly become a source of misogyny?  Does the Virgin ultimately save the female day?  Confession:  If I couldn’t be a medieval art historian or a bard in ancient Greece, I would love to be and Early Christian Church Father, shaping exegetical thought for the theologians of the future ….Onward!

Remember to post your thoughts!!!

Seeing and Performing Late Medieval Childbirth

1.  According to Gibson, what parts of the pregnant body and childbearing experience were off limits to the male gaze?

2.  You’ve got to love the Middle Ages:  who was Silence in the Roman de Silence?

3.  Why is “lateral imagining” necessary and what are the types of texts that help historians piece together our knowledge of medieval childbirth?

4.  What do Virginia Woolf, women’s bodies, the patriarchy, and performance have in common?  Work with me here!

5.  How do the ceremonial birthing trays function both as a witness to and mediator of the enclosed birthing rooms?

6.  What do the inscriptions on the birthing tray in the Metropolitan Museum connote?  Does the iconography of the obverse of this salver reinforce the male-female dialectic that we have been discussing in this course?

7.  Discuss the origins of the word “gossip!”  What are the parallels between the midwife and the clergy?

8.  Why was the performance of the Nativity so compelling?  What does Gibson mean by the theological gynecology of Mary as a recurrent spectacle in the N-Town cycle?  In what way is this performance a transgression of gender boundaries?

9.  How does Joseph cross the gender boundaries in art?

10.  What role does the doubting midwife play in the “gender wars?”

11.  In the end, the Virgin’s body remains a contested site, one that experiences true labor pains at the foot of the Cross as she experiences the loss of her son.  Some would argue that all pregnant bodies are  contested sites, privy to certain secrets (the quickening!), etc.  What do you think about the state of pregnancy today?

19th-century queries….

Please do not feel compelled to answer all of these questions.  They are meant to stimulate your own comments.

1.  What were some of the Victorian views of women that impeded “painterly progress?”

2.  What was the “Woman Question?”

3.  How do we explain the disconnect that existed between the romantic, sentimental paintings of the period that simultaneously witnessed such relatively monumental progress in the status of women?

4.  Did the foundation of societies for female artists alter the status achieved by these artists?  Why or why not?

5.  Were the ills of society reflected in the visual arts?  For example, is there evidence of the exploitation of servants, of governesses, etc. in art?

6.  Prostitution was described as the obverse side of the marriage coin.  Discuss!  Why did so many Pre-Raphaelites choose to depict women of fallen virtue?

7.  How does the British love of animals come into play in the story of Rosa Bonheur?  Does her portrayal of animals differ from that of her contemporaries?

8.  How do the issues of suffrage and anti-vivisection intersect in the nineteenth century?

9.  What was the impact of Black Beauty?  Do you remember its effect on you?

10.  Did women treat travel to other countries with the same degree of alterity and colonialism as their male counterparts?  How did the Society of Female Artists encourage these painters?