Not all ‘blood, guts and pussy’: more thoughts on female artists.

A couple of days ago my esteemed pal at Exiled Stardust wrote about how female artists tend to be ‘overlooked’ and ‘misconstrued’, with special reference to Georgia O’Keeffe and ‘ladybits’. Another problem with our attitude to female artists, it seems to me, is that we rarely allow their work to speak for itself.

Judith Slaying Holofernes, Naples version, Artemesia Gentileschi

What I mean is, we always have to have the ‘baggage’, the ‘story’, something we do not demand of male artists in the same way. With them, personal histories tend to be interesting and informative adjuncts to the work, tangential, if you like; with women the two are inextricably entwined. Think of Artemesia Gentileschi and you’ll think of her ‘defining’ rape at the hands of Agostino Tassi; of reductive critiques that describe her work as ‘revenge’ pieces. They may well be, but I’d rather talk first about the form, the technique, the skill: about the art object; pay her the courtesy of viewing her first as an artist, yes, an Old Master, and then as a woman.

Self-portrait, Mary Beale

All of which is probably why you’ve probably never heard of Mary Beale (1632-1699), the ‘first professional female English painter’ (Wiki), and friend of court painter Peter Lely (whom you surely will have heard of.) You see, there is no ‘story‘; Mary was the daughter of a rector, got married, had children, had a successful career as a portraitist, and died. That’s it. No ‘blood, guts and pussy’, just a woman going about her business.  And a very fine painter who is now largely forgotten.
Call me ‘radical’, but that sucks.

Exiled Stardust: http://exiledstardust.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/old-masters-overlooked-women-artists-and-georgia-okeeffe-misconstrued/

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3 thoughts on “Not all ‘blood, guts and pussy’: more thoughts on female artists.

  1. Thank you kindly for the mention and the link. It does suck, it does. But you acknowledge that and this is one step closer to justice for us all.
    Excuse me if I’m grandiloquent, I am a bit under the influence right now – had a bottle of champagne and had to drink it all or it would go flat, turned out to be unexpectedly good – and I have been out staring at the moon for several hours now. I think the truth is out there somewhere.

    • That’s why I love champagne – it demands whole-hearted commitment; none of this ‘half now, half later’ crap.
      Here’s to you. Cheers!

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