Women, Art and Power Essay

7947 WordsNov 19, 201232 Pages
Women, art, and power (Linda nochlin) In this essay, I shall be investigating the relationships existing among women, art, and power in a group of visual images from the late eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. These visual images have been chosen for the most partbecause they represent women in situations involving power - most usually its lack. It is obvious that the story or content or narratives of these images - what art historians call their 'iconography' - will be an important element for analysis in this project: the story of the Horatii represented by David; that of the death of Sardanapalus depicted by Delacroix; or the sad, exemplary tale of domestic downfall and punishment bodied forth by the English painter, Augustus Egg, in his pictorial trilogy known as Past and Present. Yet what I am really interested in are the operations of power on the level of ideology, operations which manifest themselves in a much more diffuse, more absolute, yet paradoxically, more elusive sense, in what might be called the discourses of gender difference. I refer, of course, to the ways in which representations of women in art are founded upon and serve to reproduce indisputably accepted assumptions held by society in general, artists in particular, and some artists more than others, about men's power over, superiority to,difference from, and necessary control of women, assumptions which are manifested in the visual structures as well as the thematic choices of the pictures in question. Ideology manifests itself as much by what is unspoken - unthinkable, unrepresentable - as by what is articulated in a work of art. In so far as many of the assumptions about women presented themselves as a complex of common-sense views about the world, and were therefore assumed to be self-evident, they were relatively invisible to most contemporary viewers, as well as to the

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