Discuss The Role Of Women As Represented In Art, Photography Or Advertising Through Comparison And Contrast Of The Work And Intentions Of At Least Three Artists From Different Time Periods. What Role Did Men Play During

1767 words - 8 pages

Question no. 5
'Men act, woman appear', Berger wrote.  Discuss the role of women as represented in art, photography or advertising through comparison and contrast of the work and intentions of at least three artists from different time periods. What role did men play during the period being discussed, and how were they represented? At least one of the artists discussed should be contemporary; discuss changes in representation of women, and why. 

According to John Berger “men act and women appear”. He believed that the essential use to which womens image are put, has not changed, he went on to state that “the ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the women is ...view middle of the document...

The artworks ‘Luncheon on the Grass’1863 by Manet, (Image no.1), and Degas ‘Portrait of Mary Cassatt’ (Image no. 2) can be used to exemplify the previous idea. In image no.1 there is the obvious juxtaposition of the nude female and fully clothed male. The difference between the overtly nude female and well-dressed male suggests that of the social context at the time, and more significantly the female status. The painting caused much scandal as the female differed from past nudes in that she was a contemporary Parisian lady rather than being a mythological feminine figure. The female figure at the forefront of the painting is posed in a depersonalized and somewhat objectifying manner, positioned with the two men in deep conversation without the slightest acknowledgment of the female.

Degas ‘Portrait of Mary Cassatt’ also maintains the fundamental ideals by Berger that ‘Men act and Women Appear”. In this portrait Cassat is positioned in a manner that was highly unconventional to the times (Armstrong, C. pp 92), leaning partially forward with her legs spread slightly apart. The bodily positioning of Cassat, is a suggestion of a challenge towards the contemporary subdominant position of women in society. According the Degas himself he wanted the painting to a women’s crushed respect and absence of all feeling in the presence of art’” (Poole, 1967:148), to which is evident through the angle of the body. The situation holds evident to Bergers statement; although Degas and Cassat were friends in real life, the lack of true identity in the painting overrides that knowledge. Such alludes to relative unimportance of women within society. It should be noted that Degas rejected the epithet “Impressionist”, preferring to see himself as a “‘Realist’ and ‘a keen observer of everyday life” (Monnier 2004:3) to which suggests that throughout his art his “tendency to regard things as they really are” (OED 1989: realism 2) provided an accurate representation of the way in which women were treated during the nineteenth century.

The 20th Century has seen many developments in the artworld, one in particular has been the incorporation of females as active participants rather than mere subjects or objects. Similar to the impressionist artists Manet and Degas, women have pushed the boundaries of the art world and opened up the realm of possibilities for women within. Bergers statement that “men act and women appear” can be slightly disproved by the actions of the Guerilla Girls and dynamic photographer Cindy Sherman, of whom both act as vehicles of commentary on a variety of issues of the modern world. Both have raised challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art. Sherman’s 1981 photographic series “centerfolds” (Image no.3 – no. 5) drew attention to the stereotyping of women and their role as a mere ‘appearance’. Close-cropped and close up, they portray this...

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