Challenging the Feminine: Gender Tropes in Classical Painting

Louise Thompson

Abstract


In much of art history, women are depicted as innately helpless, weak and even unwittingly malevolent. Conversely, many paintings affirm the virility, dominance, and general wisdom of men.  Challenging The Feminine: Gender Tropes in Classical Painting identifies three archetypal depictions of females: the reclining female, the female aspect, and the grouped female. Several iconic works of art history are referenced, such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Edgar Degas’ Bath Paintings, and Raphael’s Three Graces. Accompanying the research, the artist has produced a series of large-scale oil paintings exploring depictions of gender. The use of classical figurative poses creates parallels between gender within contemporary art and the antiquated preconceptions of female agency. The artist also uses facial expressions and body language to communicate each painted figure’s personality and experience.  Much like the duality of male and female, the Vanitas genre effectively communicates binary ideas. Relevant contemporary artists such as Jenny Saville, Beverly McIver, and Lizz Andronaco inform this discussion about the portrayal of women in contemporary painting. This body of work contextualizes and questions the conventions of feminine tropes in art history by utilizing the same classical canons that propagated them.


Keywords


Feminine, Gender, Painting

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