Archive for the 'Theme' Category

You are what is most beautiful about me. Really?

I came across some new work of Del Kathryn Barton’s this week which I will talk about in another post at another time. But it reminded me of her 2008 Archibald winning portrait and I thought it was worth pulling apart some of the ideas contained within it. What is of interest to me in this piece, apart from the
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Tennyson, K. Good son. 2012

The Good son.

I’ve decided to collect up all the portraits of children I can find that are entered into various painting prizes over the last little while. I’m interested in knowing if the child as subject is still primarily the domain of the female artists. This one was a finalist in the Doug Moran Portrait Prize 2012 and is by Cairns based
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Modersohn_Becker, Paula. Self-portrait on her sixth wedding anniversary, 1906

Paula’s painted pregnancy

Paula Modersohn-Becker painted this self-portrait in 1906. It’s called Self-portrait on her sixth wedding anniversary and apart from being a fictional piece (Modersohn-Becker was not to fall pregnant until the following year and then she survived only three weeks after the birth) it’s a rare archetype. Firstly, it’s a nude. Women rarely painted themselves nude, despite being so accustomed to seeing themselves naked in
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Children as passports

As you leaf through women’s self-portraits of the past you can’t help seeing how many children are by our sides. They are everywhere – as babies, as toddlers, as siblings. It’s unsettling. Unsettling, because those children were our passports. They gave us permission to paint – not the children themselves (many of them probably wished their mothers weren’t so distracted by paint) but
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The original Supermum!

Have a look at this! Painted in 1789 by French artist Nicole-Marie Dumont, this painting has remained etched in my conscious since I first saw it. There is nothing terribly unusual about the painting itself, in fact it’s fairly predictable in its technicalities. It’s the subject matter that is so significant to me. The 18th century ‘supermum’! The artist presents herself
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Mirror, mirror once again

The twentieth century proved to be a good time for women. Many things in their collective lives improved, at least in the developed world. Being a female artist became a possibility in the professional sense despite significant sexist attitudes remaining. Once we got to this point in time, it was as if we were suddenly free to look in the mirror again, and more
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Nora Heysen and her blue-eyed gaze

                      In 1938 Nora Heysen became the first woman to win the Archibald Prize, Australia’s best known portrait prize and an annual event which has attracted much controversy since its inception in 1921. In 1943 Heysen became the first Australian female war artist and was posted to Borneo and New Guinea
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Gabriele Münter plays second fiddle

You may know of Gabriele Münter as the partner of Kandinsky during the years of the Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider group). By all accounts her life was made miserable by her great and no-doubt difficult teacher and long-time lover Wassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky was hard task master it seems, telling her ‘as a pupil you are hopeless – nothing can
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Eye to eye with Anna Bilinska

At about the same time as Therese Schwartze was peering back at Reynolds, Anna Bilinska was facing us – eye to eye. Anna Bilinska’s multi-layered painting is one of my favourites. When I’m feeling buoyant, I fancy myself chatting easily with this attractive woman – who appears to have sat down momentarily on the sitter’s chair, almost inadvertently catching her
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Peering back at Reynolds

There is a fabulous self-portrait by the Dutch artist Therese Schwartze (1852-1918) where she assumes the pose made famous by Joshua Reynolds some 140 years earlier. Reynolds painted his self-portrait early in his career and shows himself as a young artist, hand to brow shading his eyes and carefully surveying his subject – his own reflection in a mirror. It’s
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