Representations of Women in Early 20th Century Art

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Submitted By cbatt9
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Feminist scholar Linda Nochlin explains that "art is not a free autonomous activity of a super-endowed individual…but rather… occurs in a social situation, is an integral element of social structure, and is mediated and determined by specific and definable social institutions".[1] While art functions as a gateway for personal creativity and expression, it inevitably carries the influence of a far greater context outside the artist himself. Across cultures, time periods, and movements, art has presented various patterns in style and subject matter inextricably linked to values of the larger society. Viewers do not simply witness these products of history, but engage in personal experiences and responses provoked by them. Thus, art has served as a powerful engine both reflecting and fueling political, social, and religious ideologies.[2] In particular, the subject of women has accumulated controversial discussion in the visual arts because of consistencies witnessed across all these constructs. In exploring female representations in art, feminist scholars have particularly noted the perpetual limitations set upon women not only as subjects but as spectators. While artistic movements progressed over the centuries, it appears the connotations of women have remained stagnant. Even in the early 20th century which saw a turn in traditional gender roles, painting continued to be dominated by the male experience demonstrated in the guises of the nude, despite aesthetic and conceptual differences. Such control gave women little privilege to explore their own experience, resulting in a struggle of identity. After the mid 19th century, paintings of the nude increasingly replaced men with female subjects, although women contented to be absent from major art academies. Unlike their respectable counterparts, images of women actually reinforced ideologies of the power relationship…...

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