The role of women artists has transformed over the century in terms of their role in society. Traditionally women were objectified and were painted to appeal to men. Women artists painted on selective themes and continued to be under the oppression of males. In art, women were painting about their position in society; it was clear to see how their roles transformed from being under speculation to having a sense of importance in society. The artists I will be discussing are Mary Cassatt, Cecilia Beaux, Emily Mary Osborne, Lilly Martin Spencer, and Barbara Kruger. These artists portray women as are having a significant role, as well as highlight their prominence in society. One of the prevailing themes across the peices of art that i will discuss, is based on how women are defying their conventional roles and are making their presence known.
|Nameless and Friendless 1857|
The exhibition of "Angel and Tomboys" at the Newark Museum featured Lilly Martin Spencer's paintings. As an artist, Lilly Martin Spencer did not fit into the stereotypical role of women. Specifically, she supported her family, which inlcuded seven children and her husband who were dependent of her. Therefore she was extremely independent and had strong willpower.
|War Spirit at Home 1886|
In this painting "War Spirit at Home," the women is depicted as not taking care of the home, and leaving it to be a mess. This is somewhat a haphazard environment because the children are running around, and the maid servant seems overwhelmed with work, looking to the mother for assistance. On the other hand the mother is reading a newspaper, which shows she is concerned with current events. In terms or the children, the girl has more emphasis place on her because she is dressed in bright colors and stands out in the painting because of her clothes and her actions.
|Home of the Red, White, and Blue 1867|
|Women in Black at the Opera 1880|
During the 19th century women were starting to be portrayed as non-submissive and not appearing in art, simply for men. Mary Cassatt's "Women in Black at the Opera" shows the woman dressed in black, and attempting to “blend-in” with their surroundings. She is shown as acting as not merely appearing. Her role in this painting is not to please anyone, on the other hand she is watching the opera. There is also a male figure in the distance who is looking at her, although she does not acknowledge his gaze. This is symbolic for women because they are starting to have an identity of their own. Cassatt also illustrates the importance of impressionism. Please view this video for background information on this topic.
Another female artist of the 19th century, Cecilia Beaux gave up the traditional role of a woman to become a painter. The girl in this painting is holding pansies, which symbolizes thoughtfulness. From her facial expression and her overall demeanors she resembles a doll. She also looks pensive and intelligent. She also lacked fear and seemed to be confident. Although at this age she looks calm, composed, and passive, her transition into becoming a woman involves social activism. Her eyes are a focus point in this painting because they hint at her intelligence and the woman she would become. As a social activist, she “infiltrated factories and get arrested for organizing sit-down strikes.” Thus this painting shows how the artist as well the subject deviated away from domesticity and “what was expected of women.” The role of women continued to change and this was depicted in their artwork as well. Young women were being painted without male counterparts, and in different settings. It is interesting to see in this case how the young girl turn out to be a social activist.
|A Little Girl (Franny Travis Cochran) 1887|
Kruger goes beyond illustrating the traditional forms or art and expands the possibilities for interpretation. She address the limitations places on art and culture, and more specifically on women. Kruger's work critiques the forces that attempt to objectify women. She blends text with images in order to prominently highlight the message she is trying to portray. Her work at times uses humor and sarcasm as well. Specifically for his photograph, the woman is shown in form of a statue and symbolizes beauty. In relation to the “male gaze” is it shown how the woman is try to avoid it and therefore it is merely hitting the side of her face, and not affecting her as a whole. She is shown as looking past the male gaze, although it is persistent and judgmental. Thus showing how women's roles in society are evolving because they are no longer passive and subjecting themselves to male scrutiny.
|Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face 1981|
"Barbara Kruger's Artwork Speaks Truth to Power."http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/Barbara-Krugers-Artwork-Speaks-Truth-to-Power-160281585.html
Newark Museum, Angels and Tomboys Exhibition.
Chadwick, Whitney. "Women, Art, and Society."