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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 4. The Inseparability of Frida Kahlo’s Life and Art: The Importance of Biography for Feminist Art Criticism


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The Importance of Biography for Feminist Art Criticism

Many feminist critics and art historians believe that women artists’ biographies must be attended to in order to understand how sex and gender affect their careers. In Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology, Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock emphasize the significance of biological sex for women, namely that in the late nineteenth-century, women artists were represented as different, distinct, and separate on account of their sex alone (44). Analyzing the ideology of women’s art, Parker and Pollock observe how women artists are inevitably penalized and male artists celebrated for their sex (36).

In addition to the biographical dimension of sex, feminist critics consider gender as a social factor that influences women’s art and their careers as artists. For instance, Anne Wagner’s study of Eva Hesse, Lee Krasner, and Georgia O’Keeffe reveals how “gender is an actively determinant factor in the production and reception of art” (4). She examines how the careers of these three women were shaped by their feminine identities, and she interprets their artwork as “symptomatic of their social and historical position as women” (14), arguing that Western “assumptions concerning female identity—including the assumptions of the artists themselves—have inevitably shaped, to their benefit and detriment, the course of their careers and the character of their art” (10). ← 75 | 76 →

Indeed to disregard the significance of...

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