First off, I was nominated for a Liebster Award! Woot! However, I need time to construct a half-decent, non-garbled response, so I’m going to save that for another day.
Today I am in a garbling mood, so I’m going to have a little blather…about natural beauty, and how art can inspire us on this front.
Some of you may know that I have another blog. It’s called Dial the Lobster, and it’s about art, life, and philosophical musings. Before I became a teacher I was an art historian, with a PhD and everything (!). I didn’t love it too much, but I do love art, and I still love to write about it.
For women, art can be especially useful. It’s a wonderful antidote to all of those awful air-brushed images of perfect beauty that appear in magazines, not to mention the gorgeously made-up ladies that grace our TV screens. Great artists have a way of capturing a woman’s inner beauty that photography (IMHO) struggles to do – even really good photography. And whilst it’s true that the history of art is generally also a history of the male gaze, I feel that the selection I’m presenting today depicts women in a truthful, sensitive light, compared to many contemporary, ‘promotional’ images (and isn’t that half the problem? That so many images of women today are promotional, be they on instagram feeds, or billboards?) So I’m taking a break from product reviews (because I also want this blog to be a support system for women in a more general way) to present to you a few paintings of women who are beautiful in ways which have nothing to do with their ‘outer’ beauty and everything to do with character, strength, grace, vulnerability…in essence, their humanity. If you like this post, let me know…I’m happy to do more like it!
Frida Kahlo “Self-Portrait with Monkey.” I love the bold, almost arrogant gaze Frida projects in the painting. And the monkey suggests a touch of mischief as well.
Egon Schiele “Seated Woman With Bent Knee.” The title says it all: this isn’t a woman to be ‘adored’ or objectified; this is simply a ‘seated woman’ in control of her own image. I love the contrast of the boldness of her opened legs with her slightly protective, hunched over posture. It captures so well the confusion all women have regarding how we wish to be viewed.
John Singer Sargent “Ena and Betty: Daughters of Asher and Mrs. Wertheimer.” I love the way Sargent captures the haughty elegance of these sisters, and the differences in their personalities. The lady in white seems more extroverted and self-assured than her sister in red, but they both exude quiet confidence and elegance.
Johannes Vermeer ‘Young Woman with a Water Pitcher.” Vermeer was a master of light and interior space, but here the young woman is clearly the focus of the scene. Vermeer sought to elevate the humble to a spiritual level, and I think he captures perfectly the grace and beauty of this servant’s devotion to duty, offset by her very natural desire to gaze out the window at the world beyond.
Michelangelo. “Pieta.” Now in the Vatican, this incredible sculpture perfectly captures the sense of loss and grief Mary feels, holding her dead son. Her body verges on the brink of collapse, the body seemingly about to slide from her lap, yet she has the strength to cradle him in her arms for a moment.
Pablo Picasso I love this portrait of Picasso’s model (and lover), Marie, which is sensual in its curviness, yet also portrays Marie as distant and far away from the artist himself; head tilted to one side, eyes closed, as if locked in a private reverie.
Pablo Picasso, “Woman In a Chemise.” A very different image here, yet this ghostly woman’s determined face and the stark lines of her body afford her a kind of ‘strength under fire’ beauty which could be consoling in difficult times.