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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 1

1. For instance, Lutz and Collins claim that photographers for National Geographic magazine, along with the magazine’s diverse readership, look upon the beauty of the non-Western world with awe (190).

2. In order to avoid essentializing, it should be noted that references to women and men in this discussion refer to women and men as they are socially constructed along a gender binary. Another problem of essentializing is suggested by Wendy Leeks in “Ingres Other-Wise,” who uses Lacanian theory to critique aspects of representation in J.A.D. Ingres’ Odalisques. Leeks distinguishes between an historically female imperialist gaze and a male gaze by noting that Lady Mary Whortley Montagu’s writings were among Ingres’s sources for his bather paintings. Whortley, who was actually allowed in the baths, wrote about her observations. As a female, her experiences were neither secretive nor non-reciprocal; the women looked back at her as she looked at them, making her gaze nothing like the male voyeuristic gaze.

3. John Ashbery adopts the tradition of the heroic male artist ironically in “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.”

4. Wagner became the leading edge of a feminist rehabilitation of biography as gendered when Three Artists (Three Women) was published in 1996.

5. Wagner is more Foucauldian than Barthian; that is, she critiques the “author function” in relation to the biographies of Hesse, Krasner, and O’Keeffe. In fact, in this respect, art history as a discipline is more Foucauldian...

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