Women in Art

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Artists of different time periods have made it clear that social movements and happenings have a great deal of importance in their work. Whether it is sculptures, paintings on walls in buildings like churches, or on canvas, the way that social movements and the ways in which society has changed their ways of looking at things, in particular women, have been depicted in artwork for centuries. In various forms of art throughout history, women are shown as sex symbols, weak, as servants to men and as housewives, men are depicted as being leaders, masculine, breadwinners, and decision-makers. Simple because society as a whole for the most part believed that way, doesn’t mean it was unheard of for women to seek their rights, however, in most cases, women continued to be seen in those ways in various medias though out time.

As far back as the eighteenth century during the Enlightenment period, women were seeing gender differences made within society and some, as did the British writer Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” 1792. She argued that women be have fuller participation in the political process and be better wives and mothers if they were educated (Benton & DiYanni, p 420). Although this was only the beginning of the fight for women’s rights, literature was, like most others forms of art, an active participant in the moves as we’ve seen throughout history. As we know, women continuously were deemed as second class citizens who were not able to own property, work, or do anything short of having and taking care of the children in the household other than being readily available for sex as the man deemed necessary.

In the article “Gender Role Stereotypes in Fine Art: A Content Analysis of Art History Books” the author Charlotte G. O’Kelly shares a study made about gender differences in art in the past and in the ways there continues to be differences. Throughout different eras in history, men have typically been the dominate figures in art work. According to O’Kelly, not only are men depicted in mostly masculine roles, but women’s changing place in society is visible throughout the periods studied but has not made an impact enough to lessen the differences.

The sociological study described in the article was geared at finding the continued stereotypes and gender differences made throughout time and laid out the findings in order by period of time. Although not very much detail was given to each period, the main points were given as in what roles women took in art during that particular time and how it deferred from that of men. In the conclusion the author does state that further research is needed to add to what the study will mean to the effects of gender role images in the future. According to the article, during the Renaissance, many women were seen as sex objects in artwork rather than as a productive part of the household.

During the Romantic Era, in Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ canvas painting La Grande Odalisque, 1814, a woman is laying on what seems to be a bed, leaning on a pillow, nude. As mentioned in the text, the proportions were off in this painting which not only characterized this artist’s style, but also made the women look much curvier. Her look is sensual and she seems to be lying over her clothes, which could lead the viewer to think that she had just finished something, and by her looks, it could have been sexual. Odalisque were in fact were females slaves that were known for doing sexual favors. They were at the bottom of social status and they in order for them to move up in social class they were expected to do just that social favors. These women were used by men sexually and artists like Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres typically would paint them as sensual, physical beings as he also did in Odalisque with a slave, 1874. Eugene Delacroix, another Romantic Era artist, painted Odalisque (1845-50) in which there is a difference in the brushwork and the way...
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