Public Opinion

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The Victorian Era was a time for new relationships, in social status, as the families who moved from the countryside and joined the families of the cities and suburbs. As a result, new social classes were claimed, including the middle-class. The woman's mission was that of a mother, daughter, and wife. They were limited in the areas of professional activity. Women of the 19th century were not allowed to be part of a professional organization, like the Royal Academy; however, the women did challenge the discrimination of the art institutions and formed their own spaces with the help of organizations like the Society of Female Artists. I do admire the women of the Victorian era. I feel that this is a struggle even in today's time, but just in different situations.

In G.B. O'Neill's Public Opinion, oil on canvas, of 1863, the artist uses the middle class audience as his subject in the genre painting. There is a broad band of middle classmen ranging from opinion of social, political, moral, or cultural standings. The subjects in Public Opinion could be the base of a construction to bring the middle classes together by promoting clear individual values. Public Opinion is a scene of different types of middle class individuals who are also studying another piece of art. This painting is showing that, as a matter of public opinion, the art of the time is mostly viewed by the middle classmen of society. It appears that there are many women portrayed in G.B. O'Neill's Public Opinion. It appears as if the women of society are looked upon as “equal”, yet G.B. O'Neill may just be trying to form the public's opinion into equality between male and female. I would like to look at this and think that G.B. O'Neill was a pro-women activist.

Women of this era were restricted from being as creative as they had the potential for. They were expected to maintain their stereotypical qualities. G.E. Hicks's triptych portrays these stenotype expectations of the woman. Each of these three panels shows a mother taking care of her son, a wife being supportive of her husband, and a daughter taking care of her father. Her identity in this triptych is based on the women taking care of all three male subjects in her life; at the appropriate maturity level in her own life. When a woman matures to the age for marriage, she marries; after the marriage, will soon come the male child; later on in her life, her own father will soon need taken care of. I disagree with this entire idea. Although the woman does support her husband, nurture her male child, and take care of her father; I find it difficult to realize the reason for the era's focus on men. In another painting, An Afternoon in the Nursery, by J.M. Bowkett, the woman is portrayed much differently. Assuming that the woman in this painting is the mother, the woman seems to pay no attention to her stereotype given to her by the male models of society. She is not paying close attention to her children as they are playing and tearing up things in the room. Instead, she is reading a book while sitting in a way to view the outside scenery. She is taking time for herself and what she wants, rather than the wants of others. The children also appear safe and not in any immediate danger. This is probably what kept most women sane back in the Victorian era. This mother is not neglecting her children but, instead, is allowing them to be children. She is allowing them to make a mess and experience with things, such as her sewing box. The mother appears calm and patient; alert, yet imagining her world unfolding as if in the book that she is reading. By the look of her hand grabbing at her neckline on her dress, I feel as she is deeply into this book and the feelings that she is reading about. We all have our “escape” from our reality; I am glad to know that women were practicing this “escape” back then also. I feel it is more of a “stress management”.

The female nude has been used throughout the history of art, however, in the Victorian era, sexuality was not mentioned. If an artist was to portray the nude, he would take a chance facing forms of critical protest. J.E. Millais's painting, The Knight-errant, the female nude is portrayed as being weak and vulnerable, while the knight appears to be her rescuer. With the two men in the upper corner, fleeing from the scene, and the female's clothes on the ground; it is considered a possible rape scene, which can portray the evil and brutality that could also link to the male figure in society. In The Knight-errant, the woman is portrayed as the victim, while the fallen women and prostitutes of society were portrayed as deviant; as they were not the ideal type of woman. I can get a good feeling from looking at J.E. Millais's painting, The Knight-errant. This painting shows me that there were also good men back then; men that did respect women and not treat them like outsiders or a piece of their property; men that respected the women and seen them as the victims. In Edgar Degas's Interior (The Rape), the woman is bowing her head in shame with only her undergarments on. It looks as is the male has just walked in on her as she was changing. It appears that the male is intimidating her and contemplating what he is about to do and how he will do it. It does not appear that the rape has already taken place; the bed is made, her hair is neatly in place, and she is clothed. Unlike the male in The Knight-errant, this man is not her protector or rescuer, but a disrespectful, degrading, and evil male in society. Unfortunately, just as in Edgar Degas's Interior (The Rape), we still have men like this in today's society. This man is manipulating this women and her current situation. He is stressing his power over her and making her feel belittled and humiliated.

Until around 1850, women were not allowed to study the nude, male or female. However, as modernism was becoming popular, the female nude started to create a different meaning. The female nude went from being mythological and historically connected to being linked to luxury and sensuality. This also was shown as portrayed in the artists' paintings. In Suzanne Valadon's “Reclining Nude”, the female nude is not portrayed as being too erotic, yet is portrayed as sensual and discreet. Suzanne Valadon does not focus on the female nude but on the non-submissive state of the female, in her eyes; and focus is maintained on the patterns in the fabric and detail of the furniture. In Paul Gauguin's “Femme de Tahiti or sur la plage”, the two women portrayed are sitting in the sand on the beach, fully clothed, and, by the looks of it, may be weaving or crafting something. They are not looking at the viewer, therefore showing a bit of submissive behavior. The two women seem to be subjects of the domestic lifestyle. The main detail seems to be on the women's appearance and the crafting being done. Frida Kahlo should be in a category of her own. At first, I was very disturbed by her painting of “The Two Fridas”; I thought this may have been a result of her and Diego being divorced. Frida Kahlo portrayed her life events in her paintings. ( In “The Two Fridas”, she portrayed, in one Frida, that she was having heart problems. These heart problems were the result of a divorce from Diego, which led to heavy drinking and deteriorating health. After she went back to Diego, got treatment, and recovered, they remarried. In other words, in the first Frida, she is heartbroken; but in the second Frida, her heart has been repaired. This is a self-portrait of two distinct periods of Frida Kahlo's life. (

During the time of the “fauve” paintings, many women were doing paintings of the same style that could be considered as “fauve”. Although, when their work was displayed in independent salons, they were given a less noticeable position for their artwork to be seen and acknowledged. If a woman had influential friends, then she could display her work in a more favorable position. Women were not usually included in the “fauve” group hangings, nor were they mentioned as “fauve” artists. The men put a suggestion as having a more violent behavior into their “fauve” paintings. They had more shocking expressions which made them also known as “wild beasts”. (Art and Gender 215) The expression, “wild beasts” could most definitely be the stereotype for the male artists of fauve paintings; therefore; suggesting that women would be less acknowledgeable and least likely to be included in any art exhibits portraying fauve displays. The male “fauve” paintings were more of a violent and masculine expression, while the female “fauve” had referred more to a delicate and feminine aspect. Although, the French term of “fauvism” refers to “wild beasts”, it is not shown that there are any major differences between the male and female artists of “fauvism”. Even though the art is using unnatural color and bold statements, not to mention the possible mood of the artist, it is still known what the painting is depicting. I do not see a difference in the male or female methods of fauve paintings. I do not feel that I could accurately look at a fauve impression and determine if the artist was a male or female. The women did use delicate and decorative styles, but also used the rich color, dots, and brushstrokes; as did the men. Although the male and female methods were of the same, the fauve artists were not considered equal. The female fauve artist was seen as trying to mimic the male fauve art.

In contrary to the “fauve” concepts in color, “cubism” was more focused on the structural aspect of the arts. The cubism style focuses on a representation of reality and space mixed with shapes while tilting objects, using different angles, and overlapping. (Art and Gender 224) Women artists were visible in the art exhibits. Among these women were Maria Blanchard, Marevna, and Alice Halicka. In Maria Blanchard's “Still Life”, she portrays an actual place setting. In this setting, she includes a bowl, cup and saucer, and a pitcher. Maria uses strong and noticeable edges, giving this a collage feeling. In Blanchard's “Child with a Hoop”, she is portraying a girl with light hair, wearing a possibly polka-dotted dress, and holding a hula-hoop. I feel like there is another child next to the girl and a little taller. These children could be at the park or outside. Maria Blanchard blends in more of her work in this painting, but uses a variety of shapes and overlapping. In Marevna's “The Guitar”, she exhibits a guitar standing on a table between a wine glass and sheet music. She adds in a couple of pitchers or vases in a way that looks as if she made a small end table look like a long display table. The guitar seems to be the main focus as the objects in front of the guitar are transparent, while the objects behind the guitar are partially hidden. In Marevna's “Still Life”, it looks as if she is portraying a cluttered desk. There are books and a photo frame. She uses the distinct edges and the tilting method, along with the overlapping of the objects. In Alice Halicka's “Cubist Still Life with Guitar”, she shows the guitar surrounded by books, a wine glass, and maybe a couple of vases or wine bottles. The guitar seems to be tilted while being supported from objects that are behind it. In Alice Halicka's “Cubist Composition with Violin and Musical Score”, she uses bold colors to portray a violin surrounded by sheet music. Alice uses overlapping while angled and uses distinct colors in the background that form the main subject. Male cubists used mostly neutral colors. The use of other colors was considered to be a feminine quality. However, when male cubists did use other colors, that seemed to be fine; but they had double standards when it came to the females using color. (Lesson Notes) The women were considered as not being creative but instead as “going with the flow” when it came to the changes of art, the creation of art, and how it was portrayed.

Works Cited

Art and Gender course book

Lesson Notes

Frida by Kahlo :

Kahlo's Disturbing Art :

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