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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Modernity and Femininity: Griselda Pollock


  Poonam Vaidya (112416)

Thesis statement:

 What modernist art history celebrates is a selective tradition which normalizes, as the only modernism, a particular and gendered set of practices  which need to be deconstructed in order to appropriately study female artists in the early history of modernism.

Topic statements, Supporting Statements and keywords(Paragraphs 1—36)

Paragraph 1:

Topic Statement: All those canonized as the initiators of modern art are men.

Supporting Statements:

1.       1.    What modernist art history celebrates is a selective tradition which normalizes, as the only modernism, a particular and gendered set of practices.

2.     In order to study female artists in the early history of modernism, we need to deconstruct the masculinist myths of modernism.

Keyword(s(: . selective tradition, particular and gendered set of practices, masculinist myths.


Paragraph 2:

Topic Statement: The recent publication 'Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers', by T.J. Clark, offers a searching account of the social relations between the emergence of new protocols and criteria for painting — modernism - and the myths of modernity shaped in and by the new city of Paris remade by capitalism during the Second Empire.

Supporting Statements:

1.      Clark thus indexes the Impressionist painting practices to a complex set of negotiations of the ambiguous and baffling class formations and class identities which emerged in Parisian society.

2.     fluidity of class in the popular spaces of entertainment.

3.       The key markers in this mythic territory are leisure, consumption, the spectacle and money.


Keyword(s): fluidity of class, recreation, social relations, capitalism.


Paragraph 3:

Topic Sentence: It is a mighty but flawed argument on many levels but here 1 wish to attend to its peculiar closures on the issue of sexuality; for Clark the founding fact is class.

Supporting Statements: 

Olympia's nakedness inscribes her class and thus debunks the mythic classlessness of sex epitomized in the image of the prostitute.

Keyword(s):  sexuality, class


Paragraph 4:

Topic Sentence:  To recognize the gennder specific conditions of these paintings' existence one need only imagine 1 female spectator and a female product of the works.

Supporting Statements:

1.      these paintings imply a masculine viewer/consumer, the manner in which. this is done ensures the normalcy of that position leaving it below the threshold of historical investigation and theoretical analysis.

2.     Would a woman of Manet's class have a familiarity with  either of these spaces and its exchanges which could be evoked so that the painting's modernist job of negation and disruption could be effective?

Keyword(s): female spectator , masculine viewer/consumer


Paragraph 5:

Topic Sentence: So we must enquire why the territory of modernism so often is a way of dealing with masculine sexuality and its sign, the bodies of women - why the nude, the brothel, the bar?

Supporting Statements:  

1.      there is a historical asymmetry - a difference socially, economically, subjectively between being a woman and being a man in Paris in the late nineteenth century.

2.     This difference: the product of the social structurationof sexual difference and not any imaginary biological distinction - determined both what and how men and women painted.


Keyword(s): historical asymmetry


Paragraph 6:

Topic Sentence: I have long been interested in the work of Berthe Morisot (1841-96) and Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), two of the four women who were actively involved with the Impressionist exhibiting society in Paris in the 1870s and 1880s who were regarded by their contemporaries as important members of the artistic group we now label the Impressionists.

Supporting Statements:

But how are we to study the work of artists who are women so that we can discover and account for the specificity of what they produced as individuals while also recognizing that, as women, they worked from different positions and experiences from those of their colleagues who were men?

Keyword(s): Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, impressionists


Paragraph 7:


Topic Sentence: We cannot ignore the fact that the terrains of artistic practice and of art history are structured in and structuringof gender power relations.

Supporting Statements:

Analysing the activities of women who were artists cannot merely involve mapping women on to existing schemata, even those which claim to consider the production of art socially and address the centrality of sexuality.

Keyword(s): gender power relations

Paragraph 8:

Topic Sentence: This leads to a major aspect of the feminist project, the theorization and historical analysis of sexual difference.

Supporting Statements:

1.   Difference is not essential but understood as a social structure which positions male and female people asymmetrically in relation to language, to social and economic power and to meanin. 1.   

2.  Modernism or modernity are organized by and organizations of sexual difference. To perceive women's specificity is to analyse historically a particular configuration of difference.


 Keyword(s): sexual difference


Paragraph 9:

Topic Sentence: How do the socially contrived orders of sexual difference structure the lives of Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot?

Supporting Statements: How did that structure what they produced?

Keyword(s): space


Paragraph 10:

Topic Sentence: What spaces are represented in.the paintings made by Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt?

Supporting Statements: a quick list includes: dining-rooms, drawing-rooms,, bedrooms, balconies/verandas, private gardens

Keyword(s ): locations,  private areas or domestic space


Paragraph 11:

Topic Sentence: They are the spaces of bourgeois recreation, display and those social rituals which constituted polite society, or Society, Le Monde.

Supporting Statements:

There are paintings located in the public domain, scenes for instance of promenading, driving in the park, being at the theatre, boating.

\Keyword(s): public domain


Paragraph 12:

Topic Sentence:  A range of places and subjects was closed to them while open to their male colleagues who could move freely with men and women in the socially fluid public world of the streets, popular entertainment and commercial or casual sexual exchange.

Supporting Statements:

women were not exposed to everything men were, and this influenced their paintings,

Keyword(s):  women artists


Paragraph 13:

Topic Sentence:  The second dimension in which the issue of space can be addressed is that of the spatial order within paintings.

Supporting Statements:

1.      Playing with spatial structures was one of the defining features of early modernist painting in Paris.

2.     Although Morisot and Cassatt enjoyed a close personal relationship with other male artists of their time, and therefore were very much party to the conversations that  shaped the tactics they use, as well as influenced by the

social forces which may well have conditioned the pre-disposition to explore spatial ambiguities and metaphors.

3.     However, the author suggests that spatial devices in the work of Morisot and Cassatt work to a wholly different effect.

Keyword(s)  spatial ambiguities and metaphors, spatial devices


Paragraph 14:

Topic Sentence: A remarkable feature in the spatial arrangements in paintings by Morisot is the juxtaposition on a single canvas of two spatial systems - or at least of two compartments of space often obviously boundaried by some device.

Supporting Statements:

1.      What Morisot's balustrades demarcate is not the boundary between public and private but between the spaces of masculinity and of femininity.y

2.     Depicts the level of both what spaces are open to men and women and what relation a man or woman has to that space and its occupants.

Keyword(s): juxtaposition.


Paragraph 15:

Topic Sentence:  In Morisot's paintings, moreover, it is as if the place from which the painter worked is made part of the scene, creating a compression or immediacy in the foreground spaces.

Supporting Statements:

1.                establishing a notional relation between the viewer and the woman

2.               defining the foreground, therefore forcing the viewer to experience a dislocation between her space and that of a world beyond its frontiers.



Keyword(s) dislocation:


Paragraph 16:

Topic Statement:  Proximity and compression are also characteristic of the works of Cassatt

Supporting Statements:

1.      The viewer is forced into a confrontation or conversation with the painted figure.

2.     Dominance and familiarity are denied by the device of the averted head of concentration on an activity by the depicted personage.

Keyword(s): radical disruption


Paragraph 17:

Topic Statement: In a previous monograph on Mary Cassatt I tried to establish a-correspondence between the social space of the represented and the pictorial space of the representation.

Supporting Statements:

1.      Lydia, at a Tapestry Frame, : The shallow space of the painting which seemed inadequate to contain the embroidery frame at which the artist's sister works tried to explain its threatened protrusion beyond the picture's space into that of the viewer as a comment on the containment of women

2.     Lydia Crocheting in the Garden: The woman is not placed in an interior but in a garden. Yet this outdoor space seems to collapse towards the picture plane, again creating a sense of compression.

 Keyword(s):  containment of women

Paragraph 18:

Topic Statement:  In the case of Mary Cassatt I would now want to draw attention to the disarticulation of the conventions of geometric perspective which had normally governed the representation of space in European painting since the fifteenth century.

Supporting Statements:

1.       Since its development in the fifteenth century, this mathematically calculated system of projection had aided painters in the representation of a three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface by organizing objects in relation to each other.   .

2.      It establishes the viewer as both absent from and indeed independent of the scene while being its mastering eye.

Keyword(s): representation of space, geometric representation


Paragraph 19:

Topic Statement: Instead of pictorial space functioning as a notional box into which objects are placed in a rational and abstract relationship, space is represented according to the way it is experienced by a combination of touch, texture, as well as sight.

Supporting Statements:

1.      Thus objects are patterned according to subjective hierarchies of value for the producer.

2.     Phenomenological space is not organized for sight alone but by means of visual cues, which  refers to other sensations and relations of bodies and objects in a lived world.

 Keyword(s): Phenomenological space


Paragraph 20:

Topic Statement: The painting therefore not only pictures a small child in a room but evokes that child's sense of the space of the room.

Supporting Statements:

1.      It is from this conception of the possibilities of spatial structure that I can now discern a way through my earlier problem in attempting to relate space and social processes.

2.     Considering not only the spaces represented, or the spaces of the representation, but the social spaces from which the representation is made and its reciprocal positionalities. .

3.     This point of view is neither abstract nor exclusively personal, but ideologically and historically construed.

 Keyword(s): positionalities, spatial structure


Paragraph 21:

Topic Statement: Femininity is both the condition and the effect.

Supporting Statements:

1.      The spaces of femininity are those from which femininity is lived as a positionality in discourse and social practice.

2.     They are the product of a lived sense of social locatedness, mobility and visibility.

3.     They demarcate a particular social organization of the gaze which itself works back to secure a particular social ordering of sexual difference.

Keyword(s): spaces of femininity,  male gaze


Paragraph 22:

Topic Statement: As Janet Wolff has convincingly pointed out, "the literature of modernity describes the experiences of men."

Supporting Statements:

1.      It is essentially a literature about transformations in the public world and its associated consciousness.

2.     It is generally agreed that modernity as an mineteenth century phenomenon is a product of the city.

3.     It is a response in a mythic or ideological form to the new complexities of a social existence passed amongst strangers in an atmosphere of intensified nervous and psychic stimulation,

 Keyword(s): transformations in the public world, the phenomenon of modernity,


Paragraph 23:

Topic Statement: What I have described above takes place within and comes to define the modern forms of the public space changing, as Sennett argues in his book significantly titled "The Vail of Public Man, from the eighteent hcentury. Formation",  to become more mystified and threatening but also more exciting and sexualized.

Supporting Statements:

1.      One of the key figures to embody the novel forms of public experience of modernity is the flaneur or impassive stroller, who symbolizes the privilege or freedom to move about the public arenas.

2.     The flaneur embodies the gaze of modernity which is both covetous and erotic.

Keyword(s): flaneur


Paragraph 24:

Topic Statement: But the flaneur is an exclusively masculine type which functions within the matrix of bourgeois ideology through which the social spaces of the city were reconstructed by the overlaying of the doctrine of separate spheres on to the division of public and private which became as a result a gendered division.

Supporting Statements:

1.      In contesting the dominance of the aristocratic social formation they were struggling to displace, the emergent bourgeoisies of the late eighteenth century refuted a social system based on fixed orders of rank, estate and birth and defined themselves in universalistic and democratic terms.

2.     However, there was a definite bias in their definitions, which they compensated for by two theories, one being the natural one, where women were naturally inferior to men, and the theological one, where men belonged to the public sphere and women to the private sphere.


 Keyword(s): bourgeois ideology, founded on inequality, partiality, justifications


Paragraph 25:

Topic Statement: Woman was defined by this other, non-social space of sentiment and duty from which money and power were banished.

Supporting Statements:

Men, however, moved freely between the spheres while women were supposed to occupy the domestic space alone.

 Keyword(s):  women, men, spheres, mental map


Paragraph 26:

Topic Statement: None

Supporting Statements: None

 Keyword(s): purely idological maps, the concrete organization of the social sphere.


Paragraph 27:

Topic Statement: None

Supporting Statements: None

 Keyword(s): specifically bourgeois way of life.


Paragraph 28:

Topic Statement: For bourgeois women, going into town mingling with crowds of mixed social composition was not only frightening because it became increasingly unfamiliar, but because it was morally dangerous.

Supporting Statements:

1.    The public space was officially the realm of and for men; for women to enter it entailed unforeseen risks.

2.    For instance in La Femme (1858-60) Jules Michelet writes about the perils a single woman faces in the city, she can not go out in the evening, or go alone to a restaurant, and if she does, she will have to face the ridicule of men.

 Keyword(s): bourgeois women, public spaces


Paragraph 28:

Topic Statement:  The public domain became also a realm of freedom and irresponsibility if not immorality.

Supporting Statements:  

1.    Immorality were different for men and women

2.    For women, going out meant the risk of losing one's virtue, dirtying oneself, disgracing oneself.

3.     For the man going out in public meant losing oneself in the crowd away from the demands of respectability.

 Keyword(s): immorality, going out in public


Paragraph 29:

Topic Statement:  These territories of the bourgeois city were, however, not only gendered on a male/female polarity.

Supporting Statements:

The territories  became the sites for the negotiation of gendered class identities and class gender positions.

The significant spaces of modernity are neither simply those of masculinity, nor are they those of femininity, but a marginal or interstitial space where the fields of the masculine and feminine intersect and structure sexuality.

Keyword(s): significant spaces of modernity, gendered class identities and class gender positions.

Paragraph 30:

Topic Statement: None

Supporting Statements: None

 Keyword(s): Renoir,, Mary Cassatt,


Paragraph 31:

Topic Statement: They are set at an oblique angle to the frame so that they are not contained by its edges, not framed and made a pretty picture for us as in The Loge [Plate 18] by Renoir, where the spectacle at which the scene is set and the spectacle the woman herself is made co offer, merge for the unacknowledged but presumed masculine spectator.

Supporting Statements:

1.      The author makes a distinction between Renoir and Cassatt's paintings

2.     In Renoir's First Outing, we also experience the main figure's excitement, while she seems totally unaware of offering such a delightful spectacle, and the lack of self confidence only adds to the charm.

3.     The stiff and formal poses of the two young women in the painting by Cassatt were precisely calculated as the drawings for the work reveal. Their erect posture, create a telling effect of suppressed excitement and extreme constraint and unease.

Keyword(s):  Renoir, Cassatt, paintings of women, differences.


Paragraph 32:

Topic Statement:  In a later painting. At the Opera, 1S79 [Plate 19], .1 woman is represented dressed in daytime or mourning black in a box at the theatre.

Supporting Statements:

1.   She looks from the spectator into the distance in a direction which cuts across the plane of the picture.

2.     The picture thus juxtaposes two looks, giving priority to that of the woman who is, remarkably, pictured actively looking.

Keyword(s):  juxtaposes two looks


Paragraph 33:

Topic Statement:  This is, in a sense, the subject of the painting — the problematic of women out in public being vulnerable to a compromising gaze.

Supporting Statements: 

1.    Social spaces are policed by men's watching women.

2.    The positioning of the spectator outside the painting in relation to the man within it serves to indicate that the spectator participates in that game as well.

3.      The woman figures as the subject of her own look as she is seen actively looking, and is wearing opera glasses, thus cant be objectified.

Keyword(s): gaze


Paragraph 34:

Topic Statement:  [...] In the ideological and social spaces of femininity, female sexuality could not be directly registered.

Supporting Statements:

1.   This has a crucial effect with regard to.the use artists who were women could make of the positionality represented by the gaze of the flaneur —and therefore with regard to modernity.

2.     The gaze of the flaneur articulates and produces a masculine sexuality which in the modern sexual economy enjoys the freedom to look, appraise and possess, in deed or in fantasy.

Keyword(s): femininity, female sexuality, flaneur .


Paragraph 35:

Topic Statement:  But a line demarcates not the end of the public/private divide but the frontier of the spaces of femininity.

Supporting Statements:

1.      Below this line lies the realm of the sexual-ized and commodified bodies of women, where nature is ended, where class, capita! and masculine power invade and interlock.

2.     It is a line that marks off a class boundary but it reveals where new class formations of the bourgeois world restructured gender relations not only between men and women but between women of different classes.

Keyword(s):  class boundary, class formation, restructured gender relations.


Paragraph 36:

Topic Statement: I hope it will by now be clear that the significance of this argument extends beyond issues about Impressionist painting and parity for artists who are women.

Supporting Statements:

1.    The spaces of femininity still regulate women's lives - from running the gauntlet of intrusive looks by men on the streets to surviving deadly sexual assaults.

2.    The configuration which shaped the work of Cassatt and Morisot still defines our world.

3.      It is relevant then to develop feminist analysis of the founding moments of modernity and modernism, to discern its sexualized structures, to. discover past resistances and differences, to. examine how women producers developed alternative models for negotiating modernity and the spaces of femininity.


Keyword(s):  feminist analysis, spaces of femininity, modernity, sexualized structures








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