Redefining Gender Roles

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Art History II

Throughout art history, the issue of the female nude was mainly represented by

men. Since the Renaissance, the female nude has been an icon and the objectification of

female sexuality (McEnroe, 176). In Patriarchal cultures, many women are forced to

adapt to a masculine point of view. Consequently, women were categorized as voyeurs.

As history progressed, female artists redefined gender roles and changed the way we

perceived art. In this essay, I will discuss the works of Suzanne Valadon, Barbara Kruger,

and Jenny Holzer, and how they disrupted conventional female stereotypes in

contemporary art.

In “How do Women look? The Female Nude in the Work of Suzanne Valadon”, Rosemary Betterton argues that women respond to images of themselves differently from men. She proposes that both the masculine and feminine are not essences, but social categories created through changing social experiences (McEnroe, 176). She discusses the artist, Suzanna Veladon, and how she disobeyed the conventions of gender roles in art. To understand and represent the nude, she first worked as a model. In an artist-model relationship, the male artist considered the female model as a passive material that could be manipulated with the power of the artist (McEnroe, 177). The artist’s gaze led directly to the model’s exploitation as his sexual object. By becoming a model, Suzanne Valadon entered the world of art. Through her experience, she based her work through the way her own body was used as a model (McEnroe, 179). She disrupts masculine creativity and feminine passivity by combining both roles of a model and artist (McEnroe, 179). It was difficult for women to transition to the female nudes since they were stereotyped into painting flowers or landscapes. The consciousness of a women’s experience can be seen challenging the conventions of the nude. In the 2nd half of the 19th century, Valadon represented the nude as a form instead of...
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