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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 5. Susan Vreeland’s Emily Carr: Inventing a New Rhetoric About Art for Women


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Inventing a New Rhetoric About Art for Women

“Traces of women’s lives from the past can be found, but they will stay invisible or vanish anew if we have not words, nor discourse, and finally, no power—with which to articulate them.”

Eunice Lipton, “Representing Sexuality in Women Artists’ Biographies” (92)

The art historical canon, “itself a myth of creativity and gender privilege,” is indifferent to and excludes women artists (Pollock Differencing 9). Feminist efforts to include women artists in the canon, however, have been problematic and ultimately counterproductive. In Differencing the Canon, Griselda Pollock sees the addition of women into the existing canon as unsuccessful, reinforcing the “masculine mastery and power” of the canon’s innate structure (9). Citing the cases of Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, and Georgia O’Keeffe, Pollock observes how these women’s works and life stories have become notorious, sensational commodities, but not part of the canon (9). In order for feminists to intervene effectively in art history, Pollock calls for a new discourse about women that will “difference the canon” (5). This new discourse will identify signs of sexual difference in art made by women (5, 8). Pollock cautions, however, that this new discourse will only be effective if it is initially practiced in a discipline outside academia and mainstream art history: ← 95 | 96 →

If we retreat to the more hospitable domains of interdisciplinary women’s or...

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