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?

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3 responses

  1. Oh man. The letter from the “irate” Pennsylvania Academy member…. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or yell. “Chaste and delicate thoughts” (175) Seriously dude?

    “Women artists existed in a contradictory relationship to the prevailing middle-class ideals of femininity.” (176) Ambitious women today still exist in a contradictory relationship.

    I was excited to read the bit about women working together! (180) Collaboratives here we come!

    Oh man…. Prostitution enables the Victorian family? That’s problematic!

    Even more problematic is the conflation of women with animals. I’ll save my rant for class, but oh boy is making women less than human (i.e. animalistic) a huge uh-oh.

    I definitely remember watching the movie version of Black Beauty. I don’t think I cried, but my reaction was anger and sadness. It was one of the few VHS tapes at grandma’s house so I definitely watched it several times.

    The female twist on Orientalism was a surprise. I can’t wait to discuss!

  2. I am so excited to get into the 19th Century. I agree with Ellie that much of the discussion around “feminine art” at the time is so ridiculously problematic that it is difficult to imagine it happening at the same time as the huge strides of the early feminist movements. As a child I was constantly fascinated with Victorian culture, so, while problematic, these statements were far from surprising. I had, however, never really considered the role of servants or governesses and their presence in the home/art.

    I found Rebecca Solomon’s “The Governess” to be particularly interesting. While to book emphasizes the different clothing of the two women, I think a more notable difference is that of their roles in the painting. The wife is displayed as the entertainer and the governess takes on a maternal role, embracing the child and helping him. This seems to be a critique of the role of the governess. While the Victorian wife was supposed to have a virtuoso of talents, she was also supposed to have a very active role in her child’s life. It seems that in this work she is more invested in entertaining.

    I watched Black Beauty as a child but do not remember it well. I know only that it is sad and that my Daddy loves it (its just something about a boy and his horse, gets him every time…)

    I cannot wait to hear what others thought of this chapter.

  3. Sorry my response is so late!

    “The qualities that defined the artist — independence, self-reliance, competitiveness — belonged to a male sphere of influence and action. Women who adopted these traits, who turned their backs on amateur artistic accomplishments…risked being labelled as sexual deviants.” (177) This idea is continually reemphasized! (Who knew deviating from flower watercolors made you such a deviant? Ruh roh!)

    I second Ellie. Yay for women collaborating!

    I was unfamiliar with Lady Hawarden Clementina. I liked the description of her work by Chadwick. “The soft romanticism of her approach and the languid grace of her subjects are in sharp contrast to the feeling of entrapment produced by the walls and mirrors against which she frequently posed her subjects.” (184)

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