PARIS, Sept. 25 – Does a woman painter have a different point of view from that of one of her male colleagues? The Fondation Beyeler is attempting to answer this question with the “Close-Up” exhibition. It brings together the work of nine women artists, including Cindy Sherman, Berthe Morisot and Frida Kahlo.
“To close” is an exhibition which asks the spectator to be particularly attentive. The exhibition is devoted to the gaze, and more precisely to the “female gaze”. This term, used in feminist circles and on social networks, is not new. It emerged as a reaction to the famous “male gaze” that feminist critic and British director Laura Mulvey theorized about in 1975.
The “female gaze” is an approach that deconstructs the mechanisms of patriarchal and Western domination at work in the arts. Curator Theodora Vischer decided to explore this feminist concept through a hundred portraits and self-portraits made between 1870 and today.
In less than two centuries, women have emancipated themselves from the domestic sphere and have given themselves the means to access the profession of artist. This change was reflected in the evolution of the portrait, which also began to address important societal issues.
The paintings of the French artist Berthe Morisot and the American artist Mary Cassatt illustrate this phenomenon. Both helped shape Impressionism and became important models for future generations of painters. Most of Morisot’s “Gros plan” works were painted between 1869 and 1885. His models were very often members of the family, servants and young women around him.
Mary Cassatt also depicted her relatives – most often women – in her paintings. But what was new and original about his work was the way the artist portrayed them. Whatever they do – read, drink tea, watch, or do nothing – they come across as subjects of modern life.
“Today it might not seem so special, but back then it was incredibly important,” Theodora Vischer told the New York Times. “They created a shift, a shift in perspective, from being the model, the person a painter is looking at, to being the painter himself.”
The “Close-Up” exhibition is organized chronologically, each artist having his own room. Among them are Paula Modersohn-Becker, Lotte Laserstein, Frida Kahlo, Alice Neel, Marlene Dumas, Cindy Sherman and Elizabeth Peyton. “Although the exhibition does not intend to provide a history of portraiture from the beginning of modernity, each of the artists’ body of work presents a specific form of portrait that is rooted and derived from their respective era.” , underlined the Beyeler Foundation in a press release. So many different “feminine looks”.
The “Close-Up” exhibition runs until January 2 at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, near Basel. – ETX Studio