Society has grown accustomed to the idealized depiction of women in today’s culture. The presentation of a woman in art is created through physical appearance and body language, portraying a precise message to the audience. The female form can be used to display cultural perspectives toward the feminine gender and their bearings in humanity. The work of Japanese woodblock print artist Suzuki Harunobu is dominated by thin female figures. His subjects are graceful, young girls that are presented as being fragile and idealized. These forms suggest that women are affectionate and that life centers around love. Photographer Cindy Sherman’s work focuses on the role and representation of women in society. She poses as various female stereotypes found within the Western culture and illuminates the struggles over a woman’s identity.
The woodblock print Woman in Winter Coat by Harunobu displays a female looking down along a building’s wall. Although the woman is wearing a winter coat, her thin frame is still visible, accentuated by the sash tied around her waist. Her peaceful and relaxed expression conveys a romantic atmosphere, a common characteristic in Harunobu’s pieces. The form of a real woman is disregarded in his work for idealistic beauty, where pureness and tenderness prevail. Although his art appears simple, the human form against a landscape or interior setting highlights the ethereal female form as the main focus of the print. His style of depicting women conveys them as loving, winsome in demeanor and fragile.
Cindy Sherman’s photographs are powerful images that assure women audiences that there is no definite femininity. Untitled Film Still #2, taken in 1977, portrays a woman in a towel examining her reflection in a mirror. The photo visually shows how a woman’s femininity is a mask that is created by the eyes of society. The woman is caught in the process of becoming made up, implying that she does not have a fixed female identity yet and that make...
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