What role did women play

Kathryn DrakeHA2217: European Art 1890-1940

What role did women play in the development of modern art in Europe?

Between the period of 1890 and 1940, the detonation of the epoch of modern art (also referred to as the 'avant-garde')[1] had undergone a rapid sequence of shifts and changes, recognisably characterised by the Post-Impressionist works of Cézanne, the abstract and objective nature of Cubism, Dada and photography. Whilst male artists such as Cézanne, Gauguin, Braque and Duchamp seemed to take masculine leadership over these radical and liberating movements and received global acclaim for their contributions, women practitioners who were absorbed into the modern artistic timeline also had a role to play in their development and progression, providing new ways for the spectator and artist to consider the ways in which gendered representation and perception affects art. The ways in which modern, women artists challenged the portrayal of male and female nudes, as well as the hegemony embedded into society, sheds light on the transformations taking place in modern art within a social and political framework of the modern city, which Griselda Pollock discusses in her book of essays Vision and Difference. Here, Pollock examines the roles of the independent, modern woman within a society of 'patriarchal modernism'[2] in relation to ideological representations of gender, the notion of the 'male gaze',[3] sexuality and aesthetic and cultural associations. The exploration between women's roles as artists within the domesticated space and as the subjects of modern art, are particularly important to examine in reference to the development of Modernism. It is equally interesting to look at the independence of the modern woman, who becomes patron and collector of works of art, feeding into the artistic institution.

Nineteenth century distinction between the art produced by men and by women was based on bourgeois concepts of domestic and maternal femininity.[4]

This statement on the social roles of women as nurturing mothers and wives in the domesticated space is evident in the work of several female artists. Pollock refers to this as the 'spaces of femininity'[5] where women artists during the late nineteenth to twentieth centuries were producing paintings of maternal/domestic scenes in enclosed spaces. This can be seen in Mary Cassatt's The Bath (1892). It represents an up-to-date visual account of the ways in which women were placed in their familial roles and duties, yet also characterises the social restrictions and limitations they were under. Gill Perry suggests these images show that their 'experiences of modernity and contemporary urban life would not have been the same as those of contemporary male artists.'[6]

The Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900s gave women practitioners the opportunity to create designs which could then be transferred into the home in furniture, curtains and fabric designs. May Morris[7] and Sonia Delaunay[8] contributed to this area of creativity, which at the time was still regarded as a woman's 'craft' in 'which the making of a home was regarded as a woman's task.'[9] Socialist and suffragette movements enabled women such as May Morris and Sylvia Pankhurst to use their skills in crafts to make banners. [10] For the use of political propaganda, Leni Reifenstahl acted as a documenter for Nazi government, helping to elevate and aggrandize the political regimes of Nazism.Restrictions on art education for women preceding the late 1800s meant that subsequently, they were not given the skills to train as professionals. However, during the modern period, institutions were made available for women, by women, such as the 'Women's Guild of Art' established in 1907 by May Morris[11] and the 'Women's Society for the Advancement of German Art' which was set up by Rosa Schapire during the First World War in 1916.[12] These female leaders and role models would have been extremely influential for young, modern, women artists.

The Fauvist movement saw a rise in the bold and vibrant use of the palette and subject matter which incorporated 'primitiveness'. Carol Duncan argues that the freedom of the artist was 'built on sexual and social inequalities'[13] which could be identified in the 'sexualizing'[14] of such subjects such as 'Manet's and Picasso's prostitutes, Gauguin's primitives, Matisse's nudes...,'[15] where the painting takes on a voyeuristic and exhibitionist nature of the female form. In contrast, the works of Emilie Charmy and Suzanne Valadon challenge the sexual nature of how women were depicted. This notion of exhibitionism of the female nude is described by Pollock as 'the male gaze' of whom the female is the object for the viewing pleasure of men.[16] A good way to compare this in the work of men and women is to look at Gustave Caillebotte's Nude on a Couch (1882) and Emilie Charmy's La Loge (c.1902) (Fig.1), both of which the composition and subject matter form the basis for a voyeuristic viewing tendency. However, whilst Caillebotte's figure overtly exploits the curvaceous forms of the nude, Charmy's figures are ambiguous in representation. The facial features and expressions are not clear and are turned away from us. This type of device appears to reject the 'male gaze' whilst still having an element of voyeurism in the sense that in terms of desire it is unobtainable. Additionally it eliminates the control of the gaze, which is typically given in paintings by Western male artists, therefore creating distance.[17] On the other hand, the idea of 'feminine spaces'[18] seems problematic in the sense that the depiction of a brothel by a woman artist is 'adjusted to suit her own [theme]...',[19] whilst nonetheless contributing to the development of modern art.

Suzanne Valadon who was previously an artist's model and was interested in the primitive/School of Pont-Aven,[20] uses a similar technique in her paintings, where she 'draws on (its) simplification of form and bold colour, from the outset she preferred forceful realism to pure aestheticism,'[21] to reject the 'presentation of the monumental nude that dominates Western art.'[22] This can be seen in The Blue Room (1923) and Reclining Nude (1928) where the female body is positioned in awkward gestures, in control of their poses and movements, whilst also being a strong and sturdy image of the ordinary woman[23] Valadon also represents the primitive male nude at work in Casting of the Net (1914).

The fascination with Orientalism and 'otherness' was explored by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in his paintings La Bain Turque (Turkish Bath) (1816) and Grand Odalisque (Fig.2) in which the subject matter, whilst meant to depict oriental women, is manipulated by Ingres where instead he presents 'modern western women participating in an oriental ritual.'[24] Additionally, Gill Perry proposes that the odalisque theme is associated with sensuality, which Ingres incorporates into the painting in a voyeuristic way. In contrary to this, in Jacqueline Marval's Les Odalisques (1903) (Fig.3), the figures are less sexualised - 'their lifeless white bodies and cold expressions, appear disturbingly still and stiff...'[25] Marval seems to merge Western and non-Western values, with a traditional yet modern interpretation, where her focus, similarly to Valadon, was on realism rather than ideological.

The movement of Cubism, followed on from the experimentation in Post-Impressionism (for example the works of Czanne), incorporating the fragmentary, abstract and sometimes the use of text in its composition. Marevna and Marie Laurencin are notable female figures in this development and examples of their art show their utilisation of techniques used similarly by their male contemporaries.[26] Works produced between c.1912-15 illustrate Marevna's employment of the still life composition that was being practised in the Cubist movement by Picasso and Braque[27]. Still Life (L'Atelier rue Asseline) (1915) is an example of the flattened and fragmented pieces of objects commonly seen in works by Picasso. It might be suggested that Laurencin was more figurative, but later, geometric in her approach.

Similarly, the Zurich and Berlin Dada group allowed women artists the freedom to experiment with different ideas, incorporating aspects of Cubist tendencies. Hannah Hch used the assemblage of newspaper collage in her pictorial manifestations such as Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (1919) and Sadness: From an Ethnographic Museum (Trauer:Aus einen Ethnographischen Museum) (1925) which are almost political and socialist attacks making her work interesting to historians as marginalised pieces.[28]

The movement of Surrealism was a concentration on the personal conscious and subconscious experiences of the human mind, expressed through reconstruction of these fragmentary images. Meret Oppenheim explored the realms of Surrealism with reference to objects (as was seen by the Dadaists) and fetishism - which in Freudian analysis are objects of sexual associations that reveal the unconscious.[29] Her works titled My Governess (1936) and Fur Breakfast (1936) experiment with the use of objects and response to the senses in which they are placed into an alienating context.[30]

Technology was by no means inferior to the subject matter of women artists who embraced it, often amalgamating it with the female form. At a time when modern technology such as the airplane had come into use, artists were keen to use this is in their work. The world famous American aviator Amelia Earhart was a subject of photography in the development of modern art, showing the modern woman embracing new and revolutionary technology. Amelia Earhart was particular notable for her skills as an aviator pilot and quite possibly more so after her mysterious disappearance in 1937.[31] She became an iconographic image in modern art as an image of the increasing development of new technology in the early 20th century and its affect on the independence on the modern woman.

Tamara de Lempicka made a self-portrait in which she is seated behind the wheel of a bugatti, dressed fashionably and in control of her independence. By capturing this element of modernity in relation to women, seems to help to reinforce against the control of the 'male gaze'. Here the woman is in control not only as the artist, but for choosing how the image is to be portrayed - as an image of the free, modern woman.

Where collectors of art had primarily, in the past been of the lite male bourgeois culture, the social systems and newfound independence of the modern woman saw a profound influence on the displays and collections presented to the wider public through the exhibitions and collections of women collectors. Margaret and Gwendoline Davies who were sisters, were two such women who exhibited their impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in two displays in Bath and Cardiff in Wales - one in 1913, and the other in 1918. Displaying such a fine collection of works by Manet, Czanne and Gaughin, created great interest in Post-Impressionist art amongst the populace of Great Britain.[32] The Davies sisters effectively helped to introduce foreign artists of the Post-Impressionist period to the eyes of the British viewing public. As quoted by Madeleine Korn, Clive Bell expresses his excitement in the showing of Czanne's paintings which were a rare sight in Britain at this time and became somewhat of a novelty to see.[33] Both shows were a huge success, with the exhibition in 1918 bringing in five thousand people in the first nineteen days of its opening.[34] Berthe Weill was another female patron of Modernism who 'was the first Parisian dealer to show the work of Pablo Picasso, and most of the artists associated with both Fauvism and Cubism exhibited at her gallery.'[35]

In conclusion of this essay, the varied roles of women in the development of Modern art have contributed significantly in the shaping and evolution of modern artistic practices.

By comparing the works of women artists to that of their male contemporaries, (Degas and Charmy, Ingres and Marval), one can evaluate how women artists were adjusting the representation of subject matter (in this case, the female nude) to suit their own motivations in challenging the 'male gaze' whilst also employing and building upon the techniques that their fellow male contemporaries used. We are able to distinguish new ideas within movements which women brought to Modern art, as in the work of Meret Oppenheim and Hannah Hch. Women also contributed to socialist movements (suffragette movement for example) through the arts and crafts.

As subject matter, modern artists such as Tamara de Lempicka could re-identify themselves as women in control. Equally, women like Amelia Earhart who epitomised female aviation were depicted as icons in the capturing of modern technology in art.

In reference to the modern artistic institution, founders of women's art schools and societies were role models and influenced the younger generations of women of the Modern period, providing them with the skills and knowledge to work alongside their male opponents. Finally, women as collectors could provide and inform the Modernist city and its people, introducing artists from across Europe to Britain. In this period of radical thinking, women were able to place themselves into the development of Modern art; by finding authority, questioning identity and ultimately changing the way we perceive art.

List of Illustrations

CHARMY, Emilie, La Loge, c.1902, oil in board, 72 x 71 cm, private collection.

INGRES, Jean-Auguste-Dominique, Grande Odalisque, 1814, oil on canvas, Muse du Louvre, Paris.

MARVAL, Jacqueline, Les Odalisques, 1903, oil on canvas, 194 x 230cm, Muse de Grenoble.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, "Biography of Amelia Earhart", Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Accessed: 7 December 2009, <htttp://www.ameliaearhartmuseum.org/AmeliaEarhart/AEBiography.htm>

Anscombe, Isabelle, A Woman's Touch: Women in Design from 1860 to the Present Day, London, Virago Press Limited, 1984.

Benton, Tim, "Exhibition modernity: the 1889 Universal Exhibition and the Eiffel Tower", in Paul Wood (ed.), The Challenge of the Avant-Garde, London, Yale University Press, 1999.

Callen, Anthea, Angel in the Studio: Women in the Arts and Crafts Movement 1870-1914, London, Astragal Books Ltd, 1979.

Chadwick, Whitney, Women, Art and Society, London, Thames and Hudson Ltd, rev edn, 1996.

Cherry, Deborah, Painting Women: Victorian Women Artists, London, Routledge, 1993.

Gee, Malcom. "Weill, Berthe." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Accessed: 7 Dec. 2009 <http://www.oxfordartonline.com.ezproxy.lib.le.ac.uk/subscriber/article/grove/art/T091002>.

Harris, Ann Sutherland and Linda Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550-1950, United States, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1976.

Korn, Madeleine, "Exhibitions of modern French art and their influence on collectors in Britain 1870-1918: The Davies Sisters in context," The Journal of the History of Collections, vol.16, no.2 (2004), p.191-218.

Nochlin, Linda, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" in Steve Edwards (ed.), Art and its Histories: A Reader, Great Britain, Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King's Lynn, 1999, pp. 152-161.

Oppenheim, Meret 1913 - , Meret Oppenheim: [catalogue of an exhibition] 27 octobre - 10 dcembre 1984, Paris : Muse d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, 1984.

Pajaczkowska, Claire, "Psychoanalysis, gender and art", in Gill Perry (ed.), Art and its Histories, Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001.

Perry, Gill, Art and its Histories: Study Handbook 3, Gender and Art, United Kingdom, The Open University, Martins the Printers Ltd, 3rd edn, 2003.

Perry, Gill (ed.), Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001.

Pollock, Griselda, Vision and Difference, Oxon, Routledge, 2008.

Potter, Matthew, Week 9: The Surrealist Shift, HA2217 Lecture, 4 December 2009.

Sorensen, Lee. "Schapire, Rosa", Dictionary of Art Historians, Accessed: 7 November 2009, <http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/schapirer.htm>.

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[1] Tim Benton, "Exhibition modernity: the 1889 Universal Exhibition and the Eiffel Tower", in Paul Wood (ed.), The Challenge of the Avant-Garde, London, Yale University Press, 1999, p.163.

[2] Deborah Cherry, Painting Women: Victorian Women Artists, London, Routledge, 1993, p.69.

[3] Claire Pajaczkowska, "Psychoanalysis, gender and art", in Gill Perry (ed.), Art and its Histories, Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001, p.237.

[4] Griselda Pollock, Vision and Difference, Oxon, Routledge, 2008, p.55.

[5] Griselda Pollock, pp.71-127.

[6] Gill Perry, "The Parisian avant-garde and 'feminine' art in the early twentieth century" in Gill Perry (ed.), Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001, p.209.

[7] Isabelle Anscombe, A Woman's Touch: Women in Design from 1860 to the Present Day, London, Virago Press Limited, 1984, p.26.

[8] Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art and Society, London, Thames and Hudson Ltd, rev edn, 1996, p.260.

[9] Colin Cunningham, "Gender and design in the Victorian period", in Gill Perry (ed.), Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001, p.176.

[10] Callen, Anthea, Angel in the Studio: Women in the Arts and Crafts Movement 1870-1914, London, Astragal Books Ltd, 1979, pp.218-20.

[11] Isabelle Anscombe, A Woman's Touch: Women in Design from 1860 to the Present Day, London, Virago Press Limited, 1984, p.30.

[12] Lee Sorensen. "Schapire, Rosa", Dictionary of Art Historians, Accessed: 7 November 2009, <http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/schapirer.htm>.

[13] Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art and Society, London, Thames and Hudson Ltd, rev edn, 1996, p.280.

[14] Whitney Chadwick, p.280.

[15] Whitney Chadwick, p.279.

[16] Claire Pajaczkowska, "Psychoanalysis, gender and art", in Gill Perry (ed.), Art and its Histories, Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001, p.237.

[17] Whitney Chadwick, p.285.

[18] Griselda Pollock, Vision and Difference, Oxon, Routledge, 2008, p.78.

[19] Gill Perry, "The Parisian avant-garde and 'feminine' art in the early twentieth century" in Gill Perry (ed.), Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001, p.210.

[20] Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550-1950, United States, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1976.p.259.

[21] Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin, p.259.

[22] Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art and Society, London, Thames and Hudson Ltd, rev edn, 1996, p.285.

[23] Whitney Chadwick, p.286.

[24] Gill Perry, "The Parisian avant-garde and 'feminine' art in the early twentieth century" in Gill Perry (ed.), Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001, p.207.

[25] Gill Perry, p.207.

[26] Gill Perry, p.224.

[27]Gill Perry, "The Parisian avant-garde and 'feminine' art in the early twentieth century" in Gill Perry (ed.), Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001, p.224.

[28] Paul Wood, "The revolutionary avant-gardes: Dada, Constructivism and Surrealism", in Paul Wood (ed.), The Challenge of the Avant-Garde, London, Yale University Press, 1999, p.236.

[29] Gill Perry, "Gender and Fetishism: An Overview" in Gill Perry (ed.), Gender and Art, Italy, The Open University, Yale University Press, 2001, p.254.

[30] Matthew Potter, Week 9: The Surrealist Shift, HA2217 Lecture, 4 December 2009.

[31] Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Biography of Amelia Earhart, Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Accessed: 7 December 2009, <http://www.ameliaearhartmuseum.org/AmeliaEarhart/AEBiography.htm>.

[32] Madeleine Korn, "Exhibitions of modern French art and their influence on collectors in Britain 1870-1918: The Davies Sisters in context," The Journal of the History of Collections, vol.16, no.2 (2004), p.204.

[33] Madeleine Korn. p.204

[34] Madeleine Korn, p.204

[35] Malcolm Gee. "Weill, Berthe." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Accessed: 7 Dec. 2009 <http://www.oxfordartonline.com.ezproxy.lib.le.ac.uk/subscriber/article/grove/art/T091002>.

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