Archive for the Self-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
Read more…

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
Read more…

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
Read more…

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
Read more…

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
Read more…

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
Read more…

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
Read more…

Artemisia Gentileschi: the Nina Simone of the Renaissance

Much has been made in recent years of the artist Artemisia Gentileschi. Rather than talk about the story that accompanies her life – the rape by her art teacher Agostino Tassi which, having all the features of a good soap opera has the power to confine her within that story – I am going to attempt to throw light on
Read more…

Woman as painter: an early archetype

Considering the restrictions put on women in terms of social choices, lack of financial independence, and the religious and moral baggage scattered at their feet, it surprises me that women painted themselves as artists quite as early as they did. This is an archetype one might expect to see as a run-up to suffrage, or post French Revolution perhaps, but
Read more…