Archive for the reflection Tag

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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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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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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Understanding Artemesia’s Allegory

In 1611 Cesare Ripa published the highly influential text Iconologia, a kind of recipe book detailing the symbols artists could use in painting various themes. It was a bit of a ready-reckoner of emblems allowing artists to narrate complex stories and ideas using symbols which were easily recognised and understood by the viewer. The visual image played a different role
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Mary Cosway and her discontent

In 1787 a woman named Mary Cosway painted an amazing self-portrait. It was a portrait of her discontent. Today all that exists of the painting is an engraving by Valentine Green and as a result we must interpret her work partly through the hand of another. Even so, the message in Mary Cosway’s self-portrait is hard to miss. The composition
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Pioneer and hero: Sofonisba Anguissola

From the mid 1500s we begin to see really notable self-portraits by women trickling through. My favourites are by Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian woman of minor nobility who, from her childhood was determined to paint. The problem for her and her peers was that there was no tradition or culture that gave women permission to be artists. They were working
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Wise or vain: a no-win situation

From the earliest times the traits of prudence, temperance and fortitude were considered Cardinal Virtues and the ideas they embodied reached right back to Aristotle and the Greek philosophers. These Virtues were portrayed as women with various symbols reminding us of their important attributes. But it is Prudence, from the Latin prudentia (foresight, sagacity) who is painted time and time
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The first female self-portrait

According to Frances Borzello in Seeing Ourselves, the earliest representations of women painting themselves are medieval in origin. Boccaccio (1313-1375) in Concerning famous women, mentions an artist named Marcia who sat ‘with the aid of a mirror, preserving the colours and features and expression of the face so completely that none of her contemporaries doubted that it was just like
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