|(Illumination from the Liber Scivias)|
Women "roles" throughout the history of Art
By: Jennifer Ezeuka
During the middle age, there were many “expected” roles for women in Europe. For the most part, women social roles “were circumscribed by a Christian ethic that stressed obedience and chastity” (Chadwick, 44). The church controlled what women were allowed to learn as well as who could learn. Despite the stress of obedience, women did participate in many activities such as building and even embroidery. Women’s artistic and social life also depended on “noble birth.” Being born into a family, which say was already into art gave many women an upper hand. For example Hildegard of Bingen’s parents enrolled her in the convents for more artistic reasons, but her family was a little well off.
|Elisabetta Siriani (self portrait)|
The Renaissance definitely was a better period for women, despite the little changes in things they were and were not allowed to do. Like mentioned earlier, the more “successful” female careers as artist were made especially possible when being born into artistic families. Examples include Sofonisba Anguisola, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Elisabetta Siriani. During the Renaissance, womens role were still secondary to men and many weren’t educated. Most women were the typical wife and bared children. On the other hand, women were educated if their family allowed it or if they were part of the clergy. “Bologna was unique among Italian cities for having both a University which had educated women since the Middle Ages” (Chadwick, 87). The school on Bologna was defiantly a big achievement for women. In this school, they not only “learned art, but law, and philosophy” (Chadwick, 88).
With time definitely comes progress and the 19th century was a good example. In the 19th century women began careers instead the stereotypical motherhood role. Women began things like quilt work, needle-work, and textile work. A lot of the time, they were even paid to do these jobs. During this time, female artist also greatly supported their peers. “Friendships with other women provided some measure of freedom from the demands of marriage, family, and home” (Chadwick, 217). Basically, the “sisterhood” that women created amongst themselves were as a result beneficial socially and a way to get them away from their stereotypical roles.
|(Mary Cassatt's The Child's Bath)|
In the 19th century many women also took on the art of photography, this was good because photography was a new idea and women couldn’t be excluded. The 19th century was also the beginning of women’s struggle for equality. For example, women such as Edmonia Lewis paved the way for other African American artist. Other prominent women during this period include, Rose Bonheur, Julia Margaret Cameron, Harriet Powers, Camille Claude, and Mary Cassatt. All of these women stepped out of their comfort zones and for the most part became successful.
These “roles” influenced women in different ways. Obviously during stricter times, (Middle Ages) most women obeyed and stood in their lanes. They were wives, had children, and for the most part didn’t learn. They couldn’t even do much in the church, but the highest thing they did do was become nuns. Men and women did work together in guilds, but it was difficult to know the work of women because they barely put their name on pieces. During the Renaissance, women received a little more rights, but were still secondary citizens. Education depended on wealth and the class of families. As for the work, there was an emergence of individual portraits and a decline in religious figures. The 19th century was by far the most progressive era thus far in our studies of women in art. Women had more freedom socially; they could go to school, travel, and experiment more with their art work. (Sculptures, quilts...etc) In the coming years, women continued to do more and more in the Art world and this is just the beginning. Below is a link on Youtube, basically it showcases many different ways women were portrayed in art, a lot of beautiful work, ENJOY!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Zf3ET52BvA&feature=related
Women, Art, And Society. New York:Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, 2007. Print.