Sunday, February 8, 2009

Week of February 13

Power? Powerlessness? The "weaker" sex? Any thoughts on women, art, and power are welcome this week.

Whitney Chadwick, “Amateurs and Academics: A New Ideology of Femininity in France and England,” Chapter 5, Women, Art, and Society, 4th ed. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007), pp. 139-174.

Olympe de Gouges, The Rights of Women (1791).

Mary Wollstonecraft, “Chap. II. The Prevailing Opinion of a Sexual Character Discussed,” from A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792).

Linda Nochlin, “Women, Art, and Power,” in Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), pp. 145-178. [Essay originally published 1988].

Carol Duncan, “Happy Mothers and Other New Ideas in Eighteenth-Century French Art,” in Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1982), pp. 200-219.

Natalie Boymel Kampen, “The Muted Other: Gender and Morality in Augustan Rome and Eighteenth-Century France,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992), pp. 160-169.

Mary D. Sheriff, “The Portrait of the Queen: Elisabeth Vigèe-Lebrun’s Marie-Antoinette en chemise,” in Reclaiming Female Agency: Feminist Art History After Postmodernism, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp.120-141.


  1. If anyone is having trouble printing:

    Mary Wollstonecraft, “Chap. II. The Prevailing Opinion of a Sexual Character Discussed,” from A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792).

    I couldn't print it anywhere. I finally just copied all of the text, pasted it in word and then printed with no problems.

  2. I have been reading the Women art and power chapter, and there are so many interesting points in it. The first thing that really jumped out at me was on page 18, where they talk about the Gerome, the artist in the painting is seen with a nude model, and only touches the sculpture, and with his head down. He is seen as a creator of beauty, "humble servant of a higher cause", but basically you could never see a woman artist portrayed that way with a nude male model. It would create such different reactions and connotations. Another way to put woman in the object place.

    The other thing I wanted to mention was from page 22, about Millet's work about the gleaners. It was definitely not something I would have noticed but makes a lot of sense, that having them be women instead of men gleaners- "slide more easily into a position of identity with the natural order." Then the author says It is as though the earth imprisons them, not feudalism or capitalism." It is the context that the women create. If it is a man pictured, it has more social connotations- women= nature, so it takes it out of the social context. Anyway, that is as far as I have gotten on this one, but so far it has been pretty informative.

    I had a lot of trouble with de Gouges. Much of it just didn't make sense. Her form for social contract, though it had many places I didn't understand- was pretty progressive...
    She talks about a law for "widows and young girls deceived by the false promises of men" ...too bad Artemesia's people didn't have one of those...

  3. I was very interested in the Happy Mothers article about how family life changed from the 17th to the 18th century so dramatically. Marriages were so specific in their purpose it was very different from modern times now. I understood that you got married to continue your line and estates, but one thing I was not aware of was that the lower class mostly did not marry. When you think about getting married now a days, there is much celebration and happiness. You get married because you love the person, not because you need a legitimate heir to keep your property in your family name. Just such a strange contrast. Even when they talked about the 18th century scoffing at the 17th century marriage and family practices, they still maintained the main reason for marriage, for your family line. They did make the steps towards the kind of marriage practices we have now, but it was still very demeaning of women. They were still property that were sold and expected to produce as many children as possible.

    Another interesting thing I noticed was how scornful the 18th century men viewed contraceptives. They considered it an affront being a woman. It was amazing to think that these men viewed woman as mother. She was not complete or fulfilled, no matter what she does, until she has birthed children. By using contraceptives, it was as though the woman was cheating, or sulking away from their true purpose.

  4. What struck me as interesting is how through universal assumptions (men are strong, women are weak) it becomes natural to have paintings such as David's Horatii, illustrating the binary and treating females as defenseless. The painting In Memoriam shows their reaction as passive observers, clutching to the bible and somehow the 18th century viewer takes it as the default reaction a woman would have, so tranquility is "constituted heroism for the lady." It made me think about Picasso's weeping women series, created after the bombing of Guernica, foreshadowing a second world war, and how the default female role of a fragile crying mother is taken to such extreme that she becomes frightening even through pain and tears. Maybe it runs in the Spanish vein since Goya depicted Disasters of War and his women characters were described as "wild beasts"

  5. I've been going through the readings I discovered I've fallen into the trap of the typcial woman and how much our culture today reflects a lot of the same ideas. The article Happy Mothers and Other New Ideas in Eighteenth-century French Art really touches upon a lot of what some marriages and married women still do speaking from personal experience as a married woman with a family. Marrying out of love, keeping your children close to home, but at the same time it comes off as a sort of propaganda in the paintings. All of the women are happy and happy with their children and it just says to me that you aren't happy if you don't have children and painting, not in the literal semse to an extent, painting a happy picture of a situation that probably isn't.

  6. Portraits of kings and queens, dressed in decorative garb, showing their status and royalty- the portraits also shoes the power of institution, authority, and legitimization (Only in the King portraits though- you know, because Queens had no power, but were just seen as an attachment to the throne whose only responsibility was to bear children.) When the article "The Portrait of the Queen" talks about representation of power and power of representation, I was able to break it down in these simple terms: the King's portrait shows how powerful he is, obviously, because he IS the King, but the paintings emphasize his authorization by the rich cloth he wears, the jewels and treasures that surround him. The power of representation part is best put in the reading:

    "Representation is a delegate of force because it institutes an imaginary order of relations between the King's subjects and the state. What gives power to power's discourse is the imagination's potential power; through imigination subjects internalize the master's discourse as a representation of obligatory belief. The portrait of the king, then, represents (constitutes and authorizes) the relations that different subjects IMAGINE themselves to have with the king's state."

    I couldn't have put it in better words myself. It was interesting to learn about Salic law and how women were excluded from line of heritage because of it. Also, queen's children are "children of the state" (in this particular article, France) and when these children grow to become part of the monarchy, the queen mothers have no more ties to their children. At least, I believe this is what came from the reading. This could be incorrect, this topic could be something to ask about in class.

    The Wollstonecraft article was difficult to read. It would be helpful to go over it in class.

  7. There were two points that stuck out to me int the "Woman, Art, and Power" reading. The writer mentioned that "symbolic power is invisible", maybe I'm over thinking it, but how can symbolic power be invisible? I guess is could mean that a symbolized power doesn't exist if we don't acknowledge it, but if we recognize it as symbolic power then how can it be invisible?

    I was also interested in the idea of power being tolerable. I'm not really sure what to think about power being tolerable. My initial reaction generates from an assumption of power as something we don't necessarily want to don't want to get rid of, but accept in any condition, but I'm not sure if that's what the writer is saying.

  8. Strength and weakness are understood to be the natural corollaries* of gender difference.

    1.something that is a natural consequence of or accompaniment to something else

    …that it is the representation of gender differences—male versus female—that immediately establishes that opposition between strength and …

    I am more than a little confused about this because to me when I relate these two statements together I get that: the natural consequence of strength and weakness automatically accompanies gender differences which immediately establishes the opposition once again of strength and weakness.

    I guess I’m just not making a connection if there is supposed to be a difference between the two because I got the feeling that one was supposed to be more positive/better than the other but it more forms a continuous cycle in my head.

  9. The article that stood out to me the most was the "The Portrait of The Queen" Article about Marie-Antoinette. I think what stoodout to me about this Article was the fact that she as a Queen had alot of power in the idea of what she wanted her portrait to stay about her as a person. Which is shocking to think about, because in the Salon painting, she's painted in a transparent muslin white dress. THis image was said to pretty much show the queen in her under wear, during this time period for all to see. Yes she stood out in fashion, and had other respectable painting painted of her, but this painting shows her as an everyday women like every buddy else. She took risk and brought in female painters to capture her style. In being a young queen, she wrote letters to her mother and sisters that explained, how she missed them and wanted them to see the real beauty she had become. This is simular to a young child writing to her family, while away at summer camp. Relating to the happy mother's article in the since that she to evening knowing that she wasn't in love with her husband, because it wasn't arranged, and he refused to lay with her. When around the children, she too keep on a happy face! To have a respected life of riches does that men that you must in all reasons, Lie to society? By puting on a happy face!
    (sorry about spelling, I had to go to class)

  10. the "ideal" of the patriarchy as being soley based on the power of which men have so much of has created struggle and war ever since this mode of conduct was established. in reading women, art and power, i thought about the idea of matriarchy and matriarchal societies. when discussing this, i asked someone if there has ever been a society controlled by women. someone who has had debra hollistads classes told me that cultures predating roman and greek and possibly egyptian, were in fact formed around the power of women. apparently somewhere down the road of history, this changed into patriarchail systems. i was curious if anyone knows when or where this shift began and why. in my opinion, i feel a matriarchal system of control would work with a greater efficientcy, compared to the/a patriarchy, which seems to consistantly stall or fail.

  11. Umm, did anyone else find it interesting that Wollstonecraft made a comparison between women and military men? She essentially compares both to being tools for the vices of civilized men. They both are not allowed the formal education that was available at that time. What little education they gained, is all gained through vicarious experience...

  12. I enjoyed reading Mary Wollstonecraft's writing, as she made a lot of interesting comparisions I'd never even considered. She often brought up women being valued as overgrown children that are basically meant to look pretty. It really brought out the feel to the lack of education women were provided at the time as well as bring up points that still work with todays society, especially among marital relationships. I really thought the soldier comparision was the most interesting, as I hadn't really thought about problems they've faced similar to this. The difference was freedom and values in society, but it really brought an interesting point.
    I really felt her points on friendship were important, as society today even still values romance, passion and sex much more than friendship, and the writing really emphasized the importance of it in a marriage and society to bring equality.

  13. To the comment above: yeah, the writing really brought up how experience was the education for both of them, but somehow I always saw society emphasizing soldiers having more value...the comparison also made daily life seem as much of a task as going to fight a war.

  14. I also noted the soldier comparison, and think it would be a great thing to discuss in class. I hope I remember to bring it up.

  15. "Men, indeed, appear to me to act in a very
    unphilosophical manner when they try to secure the good conduct of women by attempting
    to keep them always in a state of childhood." This sentence reminded me of how some women today still use 'childish' voices,actions or clothing to impress or keep the gaze of a male...very weird..but just a thought.

    At the beginning Mary Walstonecraft uses the word virtue-and it is interesting to me because i learned recently that the latin root of the word literally means "manliness" or to be manly.
    "It may then fairly be inferred, that, till
    society be differently constituted, much cannot be expected from education."- I was just thinking today of education, specifically the highschool and public school levels, that have become almost...stupid. Not to say that some public schools do not do well, but as a whole the school systems seem to only be holding the students, where the learning has gone im not sure, twelve years in a gov't sponsored free education and kids from our generation have a hard time naming the first five presidents...or even which ocean they are closest to..who benefits from our ignorance?

    "Still the regal homage which they receive is
    so intoxicating, that till the manners of the times are changed, and formed on more
    reasonable principles, it may be impossible to convince them that the illegitimate power
    which they obtain, by degrading themselves, is a curse, and that they must return to nature
    and equality, if they wish to secure the placid satisfaction that unsophisticated affections
    impart. But for this epoch we must wait—wait, perhaps, till kings and nobles, enlightened
    by reason, and, preferring the real dignity of man to childish state, throw off their gaudy
    hereditary trappings: and if then women do not resign the arbitrary power of beauty—they
    will prove that they have less mind than man."We must wait for Men to give up their greed and positions, and Then we must be the ones that must act correctly. I do agree that women need to stop thinking that female power comes from beauty or being attractive/sexy/slutty in any way, but i think the statement about waiting around for kings and nobles to enlighten themselves..i mean, they KNOW we aren't worthless, it's part of their masterscript isn't it? i mean, honestly, men/kings/nobles are aware at some level that they are on top of Something/Someone, and that to justify their greed they must create lies/myths about how unworthy the lower peoples are.
    also, "return to nature"....what nature? what does this statement mean?
    "Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind
    obedience; but, as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in
    the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want
    slaves, and the latter a play-thing" -so,so,so,so true. I realize that is neither a question nor a discussion, but the statement is exceptionally marvelous.

  16. There is this almost combatant tone (rightly so) to the Rights of Women that makes me wonder what it might have been like for the men (specifically the Jacobins) to read this at that time. Did they view this as an unruly, unjustified manifesto? Did they fear an uprising and if so, how could they not empathize considering the rationale of the current revolution? There’s a sickening hypocrisy here that this champion for human rights (Olympe de Gouges), specifically women’s rights in the case of this declaration, was silenced so frequently and eventually permanently by a group of Revolutionaries. Why did the men reading this not agree with the demands and instead feel threatened? It’s typical of traditional societies for men to oppress women because they are in fear of losing their dominance and property, but for these same archaic practices to be carried out by supposed fighters of injustice is just inexplicable.