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How Did Male Artists Envision Women Throughout the Centuries?

  • Pipilotti Rist - I'm Not The Girl Who Misses Much, 1986
  • Félix Vallotton - Le repos des modèles, 1905
  • Pipilotti Rist - I'm Not The Girl Who Misses Much, 1986
February 22, 2018
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via this email: andreja.velimirovic@widewalls.ch

When history is observed from today’s standpoint, there’s a strong case to be made that the evolving image of women was actually constructed by men who, in an attempt to idealize them, turned them into stereotypes. Traces of this theory can be found in many layers of our cultural heritage, like advertising, fashion and the entertainment industry.

But where this idea truly found its footing is art history.

Focused on the idea that male artists were the ones shaping the ideals and contexts of women throughout the centuries, Kunst Museum Winterthur prepared a special exhibition, titled Women. Images of Women Throughout the Centuries, that will give us a further insight into how this interesting inequity between the sexes came to be.

Louis-Léopold Robert - Mädchen von Procida, 1822, Anselm Feuerbach - Iphigenie, 1870
Left: Louis-Léopold Robert – Mädchen von Procida, 1822. Oil on canvas, 81 x 68.5 cm. Kunst Museum Winterthur, Collection of Oskar Reinhart. Photo: SIK-ISEA, Zürich (Philipp Hitz) / Right: Anselm Feuerbach – Iphigenie, 1870. Oil on canvas, 62.5 x 49.5 cm. Kunst Museum Winterthur, Collection of Oskar Reinhart, Photo: SIK-ISEA, Zürich (Philipp Hitz)

Women. Images of Women Throughout the Centuries

Throughout art history, pictorial depictions of women were mostly idealized projections by male artists created almost exclusively for a male art public. As a result, portrayals of women were always subject to a canon of stereotypes that distinctly reflected the current social conventions.

Whether they were muses, femmes fatales or saints, the image of women in art has oscillated between clichés throughout the entirety of art history, contrasted only by a mere few compositions by female artists.

Women. Images of Women Throughout the Centuries will present us with both the male-dominated perspective of women preserved from the Old Masters as well as feature the stereotypical depictions created during the 20th century, covering everything in between. The show’s organizers also prepared the contemporary art‘s counterpart to these one-dimensional ideals, mostly in the form of works by Pipilotti Rist, Sylvie Fleury and Candice Breitz.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - La Clownesse assise, Mademoiselle Cha-U-Ka-O, 1896, Olga Titus - Mirror Mirror on the Wall, 2010
Left: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – La Clownesse assise, Mademoiselle Cha-U-Ka-O, 1896. Sheet 1 of the Elles series, color lithograph, 52.7 x 40.5 cm. Kunst Museum Winterthur, Collection of Oskar Reinhart, Photo: SIK-ISEA, Zürich (Philipp Hitz) / Right: Olga Titus – Mirror Mirror on the Wall, 2010, (Nr. 3 von 5 ½A.P. II). Video Installation, Wooden frame with mirror, acrylic painting, 74 x 38 x 17 cm. Courtesy the artist, Foto: Carole Parodi

The Show’s Presentation

Women. Images of Women Throughout the Centuries will make no attempt to be chronologically strict. Instead, its thematic presentation will primarily focus on styles and genres, a decision that will hopefully allow a more exciting and open dialogue about the subject at hand.

The show’s curators really outdid themselves in terms of preparing artworks to be put on display. As a result, viewers have a lot to look forward to, like the works of Bartholomew Bruyn, Arnold Böcklin, Pierre Bonnard, Candice Breitz, Edgar Degas, Anselm Feuerbach, Sylvie Fleury, Nan Goldin, Anton Graff, Pieter de Hooch, Aristide Maillol, Adolph Menzel, Pipilotti Rist, Louis-Léopold Robert, Olga Titus, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Fritz von Uhde, Félix Vallotton and Edouard Vuillard.

Meister vom Heiligen Blut - Maria mit Kind in architektonischer Rahmung, ca 1520, Michiel van Musscher - Bildnis einer jungen Dame mit Viola da Gamba, 1677
Left: Meister vom Heiligen Blut – Maria mit Kind in architektonischer Rahmung, ca 1520. Oil on wood, 44,4 x 35,5 cm. Private collection, Photo: SIK-ISEA, Zürich (Philipp Hitz) / Right: Michiel van Musscher – Bildnis einer jungen Dame mit Viola da Gamba, 1677. Oil on canvas, 36 x 29 cm. Kunst Museum Winterthur, Collection of Jakob Briner, Photo: SIK-ISEA, Zürich (Philipp Hitz)

A Definite Must Exhibition at Kunst Museum Winterthur

Judging by the way the curators organized the show and by the artwork selection, it really promises to be the year’s highlight as far as the Kunst Museum Winterthur is concerned. It should also be mentioned that, as a part of the media tour for the show, the audience will be provided with an insight into the exhibitions of The Female Touch – Portrait Miniatures and Rembrandt Depicting Surgery.

Women. Images of Women Throughout the Centuries will be open for the public from the 24th of February till the 17th of June 2018 at Kunst Museum Winterthur in Winterthur, Switzerland.

Featured images: Pipilotti Rist – I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much, 1986, Video (video still), Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine © Pipilotti Rist; Félix Vallotton – Le repos des modèles, 1905. Oil on canvas, 130 x 195.5 cm. Kunst Museum Winterthur, Photo: SIK-ISEA, Zürich (Philipp Hitz); Pipilotti Rist – I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much, 1986, Video (video still), Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine © Pipilotti Rist. All images courtesy of Kunst Museum Winterthur.