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Writers and Artists in Dialogue

Historical Fiction about Women Painters


Cortney Cronberg Barko

This unique work of scholarship explores contemporary issues of male spectatorship and the importance of biography for art criticism in the work of Tracy Chevalier, Eunice Lipton, Anna Banti, Kate Braverman, and Susan Vreeland. Drawing upon feminist concepts on the male and female gaze, Dr. Cortney Cronberg Barko perceptively examines how these authors challenge androcentric models of reading by demonstrating women’s powers as readers and writers. This intriguing study reveals that authors working within the genre of fictionalized biographies of women painters reconstruct art history to create a new canon for women artists and invent a rhetoric about art that empowers women. This book is ideal for art history courses and a wide range of literature courses, including fiction, literary theory, literary criticism, feminist literary theory, and women's literature.
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Chapter 3. Interpreting the Paintings of Artemisia Gentileschi: Biography as Feminist Art Criticism


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Biography as Feminist Art Criticism

“You think me pitiful, because a woman’s name raises doubtsuntil her work is seen…I shall not bore you any longer with thiswomanly chatter. The works will speak for themselves…And Iwill show Your Most Illustrious Lordship what a woman can do,hoping to give you the greatest pleasure…you will find the spiritof Caesar in this soul of a woman.”—Artemisia Gentileschi, excerpts from her 1649 letters to art collector Don Antonio Ruffo (Garrard Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art 390–392, 394, 397)

In “The Feminist Critique of Art History,” Thalia Gouma-Peterson and Patricia Mathews provide a history of feminist interventions in the field of art history. They credit Linda Nochlin and her acclaimed article “Why Are There No Great Women Artists?” with beginning the feminist movement in art history in 1971 (326). Nochlin’s claim that “there have been no supremely great women artists…although there have been many interesting and very good ones who remain insufficiently investigated or appreciated” (2) could not be fully evaluated until forgotten and female artists were rediscovered.1 As Gouma-Peterson and Mathews observe, recovering the history of women’s art was a first step in feminists’ efforts to understand and analyze women’s roles ← 47 | 48 → in art history (351). After observing the underrepresentation of women artists in museum galleries and exhibitions, first generation feminist...

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