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Women and portraiture by Art & Soul

March 21, 2021

Art & Soul logo for art & music blogger Stella Tooth

In the month that we celebrate women on International Women's Day and Mother's Day, it's interesting, perhaps, to consider whether can we tell if a portrait is created by a woman or a man?

There are five things to consider:

Authorship: is it significant that a work is painted by a man or woman?

Representation: how are men and women depicted? Do they have masculine or feminine characteristics?

Environment: is where the men and women are depicted - social, domestic, private and public spaces - related to gender?       

Techniques: can we talk about painting techniques as being either masculine or feminine: bold, masterful handling or delicate strokes with much detail?         

Viewing: does a male viewer see an image of a woman (or man) differently from a female viewer? 

They're questions that I think about when I look at British figurative art by other female artists I admire. 

In Judith and Holofernes, for instance, Italian baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi brings out an element no male artist had, transforming Judith from a servant waiting to collect Holofernes' severed head into a woman who assists in his killing. As, in reality, it would take two women to kill him, it not only adds realism but also the thought that women united can fight back against male injustice.

And British artist Jenny Saville changed the way we view the female form in painting. Painters throughout history from Peter Paul Rubens to Picasso have objectified the body.  But Saville became famous for paintings that explored the unairbrushed female form and rendered female flesh on a monumental scale. 

With this is mind, I invite you to look at the work of these Skylark Galleries artists in the British figurative art tradition. Before you click on the links to find out more about them and discover if they're for sale, see if you can tell if they were created by a woman - or a man.

Richard Dickson ceramic jugs

Ceramic figure jugs. To discover the artist, click here.

Identity ink on A4 paper by Joel SydenhamIdentity ink original artwork on A4 paper £250 To discover the artist, click here.

Woman sleeping by Linda SamsonWoman sleeping. Ceramic tile painting in white frame. 48x48cm To discover the artist click here.

Chris Jagger at The Brentham Club mixed media on paper by Stella ToothChris Jagger at The Brentham Club mixed media on paper 60x50cm mounted. Click here to discover the artist.

Counting sheep pink by ceramicist Vivien Phelan

Counting sheep pink ceramic. Click here to discover the artist.

Which brings us to another fascinating question of whether men and women see art differently. A study in the August 2014 edition of the journal Psychology and Marketing showed that the sexes exhibit distinct differences in how they evaluate art.  Men tend to place more emphasis on the artist, women on the art itself.

Stella Tooth artist blogger photo and blog information

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