Theme: Impressionist Painters, Painting Scenes from Domestic Life. Paintings of Mothers and Children
Choice of the Subjects by Mary Cassatt: Cassatt depicted images of the social and private lives of women in her paintings. She highlighted the incidents wherein the intimate bonds between mothers and children were clearly visible. It was the time when women were not permitted to paint women wearing no clothes. Even sitting with a man was not considered desirable for woman, unless the man was her relative. Under such circumstances the subjects for painting for a woman artist like Marry Cassatt were bound to be limited.
Painting With Feminine Charm
Mary had adopted masculine methods of Painting. We can witness the vigorous skill she had applied; the neatness of Ingress and Corot, her contemporary artists, is visible in her paintings. But the feminine charm is present vividly at every inch of her canvases. Look at the above painting wherein a mother is shown bathing her small child. The mother's hold of her child and her washing the child's foot is perfectly feminine acts, the motherly acts.
Mary Cassatt mainly painted the domestic scenes showing predominantly the feminine forms. In these paintings women were depicted doing domestic works like reading, sewing, and attending children. However as an artist, Mary had not get enough fame she deserved. She had become victim of the 'gendering of visual art', perhaps. In her adopted home in Paris, Mary's work had suffered from the angle of recognition for two reasons: one she was a woman artist; and two, she was an American living in
Her paintings done in the initial spell were such that we can see clear influence of Spanish art and the work of other painters like Manet. She kept her palette loaded with bright colours, mainly the blues, greens and reds.
The painting in general and the paintings of body of a cloth-less woman in particular had remained the ‘bastion of male painters’ for a long time. It had made the art of figurative painting more or less male oriented. Paintings were done as seen from the eyes of males exclusively.
Many a time, on seeing these paintings, especially of the paintings depicting unclothed beauty of a female body, we tend to believe that these pieces of art are painted for satisfying the male gaze only. The artists who painted these females looked prejudiced in highlighting those parts of a female body where the males ‘invests’ their eyes much taking pleasure in looking at. But the scenario is changed a little bit now. If the paintings done by some of the modern women painters are any evidence, the story is taking a decisive turn.
Change in Perspective
In this connection the researches and writings done by Sigmund Freud have also done great help. After he taught us about the new ideas about human psychology, the art world also has undergone a change. Depiction of men and women without clothes are now not a taboo as it was past. And the women painters, too, are now entering the field of figurative paintings. Their works have become acceptable among the people. Accordingly the mindset applied while painting women wearing no clothes has changed considerably. The clan of women artists of the bygone century has proved itself more secured and enjoying greater freedom of expression.
The above painting is painted by Mary Cassatt.The painting of a bathing woman is done with dry-point and aqua-tint in colour on paper. It is believed to be painted in the year 1890-91.She was one of the rare artists who had travelled most of the European cities. She went there to see the paintings of old masters. She had done a deep study of these paintings. Her travel included the countries like
Change in Mindset of Artists
With more women painters entering in the field of figurative painting, this art has gone through a substantial change. The female figures painted by women artists look like an honest subject of the paintings. A woman artist also would paint the breasts and other curvy parts of a woman model. But there would be a wide valley of difference in her painting them, so far as the basic attitude of judging a female body as an object is concerned.
Paintings by Women Artists
After getting a firm hold on her brush, Mary had preferred artistic use of line over the mass of the colours. She was always open for new experiments. While seeing such paintings done by a woman artist, a viewer with artistic eyes would not find that these paintings are painted only as an object for looking at. Women artists choose cloth-less females as subjects of her artistic depiction and they remain faithful to the main road of the art without going on to the sub-lanes. While painting her models, a woman artist honours the female body by painting all the delicacies and beauties it possesses. The above painting 'Maternite (Maternity)' is painted by Marry Cassatt. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)