Precis 4 Chen

Symbolism and modern urban society by Sharon Hirsh:

Jan Toorop’s ‘The Three Brides’ is a complex combination of good and evil. On the left is the good side, on the right is the evil. Many connections with other musician’s art and music are mixed together to portray the importance for him. Toorop was born in the East Indies. And he had been sent to Netherlands, for a European education. He ended up attending fine arts academy. There are some artistic opportunities in the city. It is a good start for his career because there are many opportunities in the city.

There is a notable absece of humanity in the architectural drawings. The underlying issue is the regeneration of the race. Maternal representation in this utopian city. Trachsel designs minuscule entrance ways.

Femme Fatale: Fashion and Visual Culture in Fin-de-siecle Paris by Valerie Steele:

Certain men, including Uzanne conceived of fashion as the art of being feminine. It is basically about the women through the fashion. Rest of pieces describes various of styles of dresses in France. The representation of femininity in late nineteenth century art and literature has been the focus of much recent scholarship, but fashion also represents. Luxurious materials, such as silk velvet, reinforced the image of women as an expensive and desirable object. stripes acquired positive connotations of chic and youth, since in earlier centuries striped fabric was known as “the devil’s cloth” This article also includes lots of examples about the women fashion at that time.

Stetler Precis 2: Hunter& Waller

Cheap Imitations Born from Fantasy Fascinations

Susan Waller’s essay concerning the practices of Jules Breton and Jean-François Millet paired with Mary Hunter’s essay on wax body castings work to unearth the corruption in relations between the artist(/doctor) and the model(/subject) when posed under the guise of professional work. Each author questions where the boundaries between professional practice and pleasure become blurred. In both situations women are made vulnerable to survive either through receiving medical attention or money through posing. While both parties strove for Realism they created aestheticized art objects by curating scenes and scenarios which would never occur without the proper planning.

Fig. 1 Jean-Fran ̧cois Millet, Haymaker and Study of a Head, 1853–60. Black chalk on buff wove paper, 19.84 􏰀 11.75 cm. Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, John DeLaittre Memorial Collection, Gift of funds from Mrs Horace Ropes. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Painting Realism was considered more authentic than all other artforms at the time because it was showcasing what the raw human experience was like. Brenton Breton and Millet strove to achieve this by portraying the lives of peasants which were often overlooked. Yet Waller argues that although they chase this authentic view of the lower class, these artists posed their women which takes away from that intention. Waller includes several images of these artist’s works as well as the preparatory sketches done for their paintings (fig.1). By analyzing this before and after it is concluded that there was careful planning done for these supposedly organic and authentic depictions of the world. Waller also includes critiques of their contemporaries who were exploring the same themes, for example, Griselda Pollock’s opinion on Van Gogh’s work. This quote helps to illustrate an interesting comparison between the advantage taken of  prostitutes v.s models, a theme which also comes up in Hunter’s piece.


Fig .2  A wax model of female genitalia from Péan’s collection at Hôpital Saint-Louis (Photo: author, reproduction authorized by the Musée des moulages de l’Hôpital Saint-Louis).

Much like BrentonBreton and Millet, doctor Jules Émile Péan took advantage of women through essentially holding them hostage in compromising positions. Dr. Péan aspired to show “pure reproductions” of illnesses as to better diagnose future cases.

Although the “intent” for the creation of moulages was to use them as learning tools, certain aesthetic choices transform the castings into art objects; such as adding hair or playing with surface textures a

nd colors (fig. 2).

Hunter utilizes paintings of the casting process alongside the salon reviews of them to reveal how the public received this process of casting nude women’s bodies. She also includes an account of Dr. Péan’s assistant describing the “care” in which he used to handle his patients. By using primary sources and including direct quotes it becomes a much more engaging reading. When injecting her opinions right after these sources her argument becomes easy to follow. For example, after the quote from Dr. Péan’s assistant praising his host abilities, Hunter reminds the reader that he was still pouring plaster onto women’s most vulnerable openings while they have rashes and bumps. This serves to address just how low the bar was set concerning women’s comfort.

In both situations either institutionalized or in the home each author shows just how dangerous the attempt of making replicas was for the individuals they were modeled after. By going that extra mile by posing and in detailing the castings it engaged a type of behavior which allowed these men to fantasize about the lives and bodies of these women. However these artists (yes, including Dr. Pean) attempted to justify their works they were no more than cheap imitations of the very real pain women had to endure at this time in history.

Hunter, Mary. “Efforyable réalisme’: Wax, Femininity, and the Madness of Realist Fantasies.” RACAR: revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review, Vol. 33, No. ½, Medical Tabulae: Visual Arts and Medical Representation/Tabulae Médicale: Arts Visuels et Représentation Médicale (2008), pp. 43-58.

Waller, Susan. “Rustic Poseurs: Peasant Models In The Practice Of Jean‐François Millet And Jules Breton.” Art History (19 May 2008). (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Meyer | Subjugation of form: Expelling Parallels Between the Heteroerotic and Homoerotic Gaze

Robert Mapplethorpe, Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984.

May man never be instrumentalized, may the subjugation of man, by man cease, and may both the black man and the white man move away from the inhuman voices of their respective ancestors so that a genuine communication can be born.[1]Racial Fetishism, born out of both the defense and desire of intolerable forms of anxiety act as the connecting force,by which the black bodies, put on display, satiated the curiosities and fantasies of men. With this in mind, if the white, masculine, heterosexual gaze falls upon female bodies of color as sexual objects of pleasure, does the white, masculine, homosexual gaze also fall upon male bodies of color as sexual objects? In an attempt to answer this question, this paper will examine the fetishism of the exhibition of Saartjie Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus,” and the homoerotic photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe.

The forcing of the Khoikhoi or “Hottentots” of the Cape of Good Hope into pastoral serfdom during the eighteenth century seems to have had less to do with skin pigmentation, than it did physique.  The most denigrated of all the races encountered by Europeans before the nineteenth century was the Khoikhoi or “Hottentots,” of southern Africa, who were not black or even dark brown, but a yellowish tan in pigmentation, and were viewed as the lowest of the low and considered highly uncivilized due to their physique and physiognomy, which deviated from the European somatic norm.[2]This heightened emphasis on the physical, created a notion of superiority and aesthetic prejudice, which led to the European justification of penetration and dominance of other parts of the globe, including the “Hottentots.”

Hottentot Venus, Print, 1810 Museum

Within her brutally honest article The “Batty” Politic: Toward and Aesthetic of the Black Female Body, Janell Hobson unpacks the fetishism of black female bodies, specifically their rear end, which were considered grotesque and ugly, but were also linked to hyper-sexuality and the sexual desires of men, by means of discussing the exhibition of Saartjie Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus,” who was taken from her homeland in South Africa and put on display during the nineteenth century at freak shows in Europe. Hobson considers how men, specifically white men, profited and exhibited Baartman’s “strange shaped” body, to them, a symbol of sexual deviance and grotesquerie, out of their own attraction and fascination.[3]This exploitation displayed a history of colonial domination and acts as the lynch pin to modern mainstream media, and contemporary culture, which downplayed the role of racism in reactions to black bodies, or a racialized sense of aesthetics that position blackness in terms of grotesquerie, while whiteness as an emblem of beauty, which led to the reclaiming and recovery of black female beauty through pop culture.[4]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Derrick Cross, 1983.

Within the article Hobson also considers the role of the homoerotic gaze, in the fetishizing of black bodies. Hobson argues that Mapplethorpes’ erotic photography focused on black bodies shaped a homoerotic aesthetic of racialized subjects, that, according to Hobson, reduces black nudes to markers of racial difference, by fetishizing the muscular thighs and taut behind of his subjects through the photographers use of close-ups.[5]Hobson’s attempt to argue that Mapplethorpe’s models are reduced to markers of racial difference need to be considered in terms with the cultural context in which Mapplethorpe emerged. It is important to pay attention to the political agenda framing Mapplethorpes’ life and work, which was overshadowed by his sexual orientation. The gay community during the latter half of the twentieth century was plagued by discrimination at the hands of a right wing national consensus out of fears that played prominently on homophobia and equated male homosexuality with a national security risk, which marked all representations whatsoever of gale male or lesbian existence as pornographic.[6]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Dan S., 1980

Mapplethorpe’s photos of nude men and leather sex harken back to fetishes as the defense and desire of intolerable forms of anxiety. Though the artists enjoyed shocking the public with his status as enfant terrible and leather chic, his photographs sought to reproduce the feeling he got in his stomach as a child when he would travel to Coney Island freak shows and sneak a peek at forbidden erotic depictions of his own sex, his future depictions of homoerotic acts and male bodies were not about violating the body, but rather the artists attempt to recreate, the inner feeling of anxiety he felt within his gut, in order to convey something that was uniquely his own.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Ajitto, 1981.

Recent gay male culture has indeed appropriated masculinity as a representational strategy for its own self-empowerment, which strays from heterosexual institutions and practices of the same nature.[7] Mapplethorpe’s depictions were far more about his inner repression of homosexuality, his intensely devout religious background and search for his own liberation, not the denigration of the black body, but the for the freedom of his own. It is here the issue of the “heterosexual gaze” vs the “homosexual gaze, ” comes into play. There has been much debate within the feminist community on pornographic works, which can be sorted into two camps, one that labels these works as violent, phallocentric and degrading, and one that sees them as a way to set in motion possibilities for desire that allow both men and women to experience themselves as desiring subjects.[8]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Ken Moody, 1983

One of the contributing factors to the stark difference in these two gazes is the issue of censorship. The “heterosexual gaze,” has only recently fallen under scrutiny by the feminist community, but it has not received the same censorship as the “homosexual gaze,” which has never been widely accepted or considered normative. Unlike the objectifying “heterosexual gaze,” the “homosexual gaze,” made the passionate act of looking and seeing central to the appreciation of art.

Baartman Display, llustrations de Histoire naturelle des mammifères.

The exploitation of Saartjie Baartman’s body, which was paraded all over Europe, and continued to be displayed, even after her death, was not considered problematic until 2005, when her body was finally returned to her homeland, where it was laid to rest.[9]However the homoerotic photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, considered subversive and offensive, were scandalized and fell victim to attack on many occasions, some of which led to the artist to be taken to court, even posthumously.[10]

In conclusion Mapplethorpe’s photography brings mixed reactions by both viewers and scholars alike, but the interpretation applied to the male gaze on female representations cannot also be applied, to the desire and subjectivity of the gay male gaze, on male representation. The exhibition of Saartjie Baartman, for the pleasure and both “scientific” and self-interest of man is a blatant objectification of the black female body, however for gay male culture, pornography has historically served as a means of self-ratification through self-gratification and the relation of these experiences to patriarchal privilege and pleasure is not univocal and the same assumptions cannot be made that the phallic pleasure of one is equivalent to the other.[11]



[2]Fredrickson, George M. Racism: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.

[3]Hobson, Janell. “The “Batty” Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the Black Female Body.” Hypatia 18, no. 4 (2003): 87-105.

[4]Hobson, Janell.

[5]Hobson, Janell.

[6]Yingling, Thomas. “How the Eye Is Caste: Robert Mapplethorpe and the Limits of Controversy.” Discourse 12, no. 2 (1990): 3-28.

[7]Yingling, Thomas.

[8]Yingling, Thomas. “How the Eye Is Caste: Robert Mapplethorpe and the Limits of Controversy.” Discourse 12, no. 2 (1990): 3-28.

[9]Hobson, Janell. “The “Batty” Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the Black Female Body.” Hypatia 18, no. 4 (2003): 87-105.

[10]Storr, Robert. “Art, Censorship, and the First Amendment: This Is Not a Test.” Art Journal 50, no. 3 (1991): 12-28. doi:10.2307/777210.

[11]Yingling, Thomas. “How the Eye Is Caste: Robert Mapplethorpe and the Limits of Controversy.” Discourse 12, no. 2 (1990): 3-28.



Fredrickson, George M. Racism: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.

Hobson, Janell. “The “Batty” Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the Black Female Body.” Hypatia 18, no. 4 (2003): 87-105.

Storr, Robert. “Art, Censorship, and the First Amendment: This Is Not a Test.” Art Journal 50, no. 3 (1991): 12-28. doi:10.2307/777210.

Yingling, Thomas. “How the Eye Is Caste: Robert Mapplethorpe and the Limits of Controversy.” Discourse 12, no. 2 (1990): 3-28.

Meyer | Thomas Eakins: Painter of the Perils of the Patriarchy or Sexual Predator

Figure 1, Self-Portrait, Thomas Eakins, 1902. Oil on canvas. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Under a 19th century lens, the work of Thomas Eakins appears as the earliest statement by a white male artist in America of the perils of the patriarchy. A celebrated master in depicting the human spirit, Eakins portrayals of women, were once thought to accentuate feminine inner-life, defined by a melancholic air and a dreamy, unfocused gaze. In recent years, skepticism has arisen surrounding the artist’s affinity towards female students and growing concern for Eakins character have begun to dismantle the legacy surrounding his work. The analysis of Eakins portraits shed light on the artists unabashed, alternate identity and the notion of his contribution in the progression of female artists, along with his modern approach to liberating his female subjects begins to fade, and the sexual predator within becomes clearer.

In recent years, skepticism has arisen surrounding the artist’s affinity towards female students and growing concern for Eakins character have begun to dismantle the legacy surrounding his work.

Figure 2, Thomas Eakins, Study of a Young Woman. 1844 – 1916. Oil on Canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

American artist Thomas Eakins has been regarded an essential realist painter to come out of the nineteenth century. In recent years attention to the artist’s accuracy in reproducing both the external and internal reality of his sitters, with a detachment and precision as a way to elevate the status of women has come under fire.[1]The artist’s assertion of the female identity is an exploitation of the female form for personal gain and pleasure, rather than paying tribute to it. Consider Figure 2, Eakins 1916 Study of a Young Woman, depicted is a woman cast in light shadow; her dark hair falls delicately around her face, the models gaze is averted, and as she looks down, the viewers gaze falls with hers, towards her chest, bare and exposed. This downward gaze can be interpreted not as a contemplated moment of inner reflection, as scholars thought, but rather a mechanism of self-preservation to shy away from the artists gaze and protect her own identity.

Women generally left with little option for monetary advancement became housemaids, often serving artists. Artists would often have their maids sit for them, having no choice, but to let go of both their integrity and their clothes to survive. Perhaps this is the key to Eakins ability to reflect his model’s vulnerability. The goal of this paper is to uncover the misdeeds of Thomas Eakins, by deconstructing the scholarly interpretations of feminine identity within the artist’s portraits of women, by comparing his works to those of fellow nineteenth-century artists, and to analyzing the sordid artist reputation under a 21st-century lens.

Gender was an essential explanatory-symbolic structure within the works of Thomas Eakins.

In his published study on Eakins, scholar William Clark, argues Eakins depictions act as a response to the conditions of American society in the late nineteenth century by correlating the images on the canvas with the predominant ideas and values of the period. Eakins presents the viewer with the complexities and contradictions of a period of rapid and often bewildering change, of public confidence and underlying anxiety, and clashes between traditional values and emerging cultural imperatives.[2]Clark suggests that gender was an essential explanatory-symbolic structure within Eakins works, by analyzing and criticizing culture in his terms and portraying the separate experiences of men and women.[3]Clark’s proposes that in Eakins attempt to capture the American life, he set out to acknowledge the isolation and malaise of middle and upper-class women’s lives. If Clark’s assessment is valid, then Eakins set out to create capture a reflection of Gilded Age America and psychological insights into personalities.[4]

Figure 3, The Young Man (Portrait of Kern Dodge),Thomas Eakins.c. 1898-1902 (unfinished). Oil on canvas.

Eakins portraits define “the Victorian horror of women’s lives.”

Consider, figure 2, “The Young Man,” his male sitter holds a confident, upright posture, his steady gaze indicates confidence that can escape the particulars of time into a universe of progress and achievement. Eakins women, also reflect the specifics of time with their fading faces, and idle hands, symbolizing the constriction of their lives, they are neither archetypal mother figures, nor physical objects of desire. It is not that Eakins is showing men in a heroic light and casting women into the shadows, but instead bringing the troubles, they faced at the hands of society to the surface, what the artist fails to disclose is his hand in these troubles. Eakins portraits, were at one time, believed to capture “the Victorian horror of women’s lives.”  In setting out to erase all vapid conventions from his portraits as he began a lifelong exploration of the personalities and lives of American women, Eakins failed to address his actions that often, left women in awkward and unbearable positions.[5]

Perhaps Eakins first-hand experience with his Mother, who suffered from “episodes of mania,” that eventually exhausted her to the break of death, played a part in his understanding and depiction of the inner workings of the minds of women and the representation of terror and decline is a recurrent theme in his images of women in a state of near-collapse. [6]A mysterious illness spread throughout the United States following the end of the Civil War, symptoms varied from person to person but generally included diminished powers of concentration, decreased appetite, and an overall decline in the level of physical energy was identified neurasthenia, or nervous exhaustion, in 1869.[7]Neurasthenia, was attributed to the rapid urbanization and industrialization and although in theory, any man or woman was susceptible to the disease, medical authorities believed middle- and upper-class women were especially at risk because their reproductive systems, as well as their emotional and intellectual makeup, making it difficult for them to adjust to modern life.[8]

Societal Constructed illness to hold women within their rightful space, women who, under wealth and social position, had the most potential to move into the public sphere, to empower themselves, and to better the lives of all women.

Figure 4, Amelia C. Van Buren, Seated, with Hands Clasped, Thomas Eakins. c. 1893-1897. Platinum print.

Kevin Mueller, in his review of the exhibition, Women on the Verge: The Culture of Neurasthenia in Nineteenth-Century America, attributes the representations of women within Eakins paintings, including, Figure 2, that display a contemplative downcast gaze, downward-tilted head, and a slouching posture, convey mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.[9] Figure 3, Eakins 1891 photograph of Amelia Van Buren reflects this notion of hysteria and mental illness women were thought to suffer. Her posture appears limp; her gaze is wide-eyed and blank as she stares out beyond the viewer. The women represented in these works were all white and, presumably, middle or upper class, which underscored the reality that neurasthenia was not a naturally occurring illness, but a social construction. One that potentially served to keep in place those women who, under wealth and social position, had the most potential to move into the public sphere, to empower themselves, and to better the lives of all women. [10]

Eakins paintings contain compelling and emotional qualities, so much so that it would seem the artist’s inner self transferred to the canvas with each brush stroke. In discerning reality from fantasy, one can begin to get a glimpse into the mind of the artist, through the artistic manifestations, brought forth by the underlying emotional turmoil and impulsive behavioral history. Within his book, Eakins Revealed, Henry Adams chronologically sorts through the seedy events within Eakins life. Accused of incest with his sister Margaret in 1886, followed by an accusation of molestation by his niece, Ella Crowell, in 1897.[11]Eakins had a compulsive interest in disrobing. During his time teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy, Eakins posed in the nude and sometimes undressed in front of his students and was known to have repeatedly strolled around with no pants, which led to his eventual dismissal. [12]

Eakins bad behavior continued as he ran his moral and social reputation into the ground. In “Who was Thomas Eakins” Erwin addresses Eakins sexuality, sexual advances on both models and students, intolerable mannerisms and behaviors to answer the question of what led his contemporaries to both ignore or dislike him. Erwin also sought to understand why later generations admired him, as he is a poor choice for the role of liberator and pathfinder due to his sordid history.

Thomas Eakins depictions of women behold an underlying desire to manipulate the female form as a means to better understand the inner workings of the mind.

Scholars have sought to uncover the man behind the madness. Sarah Burns account leaves behind the artist’s class status, sexuality, and professional identity to examine his self-portraits that highlight anxieties, that haunted him from an early age and that underlay the elaborate systems of control by which he sought to achieve in art the order that persistently eluded him in life.[13]This need for control led Eakins to seek power over his female subjects and students. His depictions of women behold an underlying desire to manipulate the female form as a means to better understand the inner workings of the mind. In comparing his work to that of a fellow artist, Alexander Archipenko, painting at the same time, a better understanding of Eakins

Figure 5, In the Boudoir (Before the Mirror), Alexander Porfirevich Archipenko. 1915. Oil, graphite, photograph, metal, and wood on panel. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Alexander Archipenko, a pioneering cubist sculpture, whose work often consists of highly stylized figurative pieces, constructed of a mixed assortment of brightly poly-chromed materials, such as wood and metal. Archipenko’s subjects were the traditional themes of heroic men and women at their bath, but cast in the colorful, geometric idiom of modernism.[14]Similar to Eakins depictions of women, for instance Figure 5, Study of a Seated Nude Woman Wearing a Mask , Archipenko’s, 1915 In the Boudoir, one can begin once again we happen upon a moment of inner reflection, one that the viewer and the painter are not meant to see. Accountability for the violation of the female form by both the gaze of the viewer and the hand of the artists is one that has only just recently been considered, alongside the social constraints placed on women, reinforced by the styles of these two artists.

Figure 6, Study of a Seated Nude Woman Wearing a Mask, Thomas Eakins. 1863-1866. Charcoal and crayon with stumping on paper

Archipenko’s, In the Boudoir, presents the private moment of a woman confronting her reflection. The female figure exists in a sophisticated space of sharp planes and jutting angles, in which the voids between objects have as much physical and chromatic reality as the objects themselves.[15]Snippets of sheet metal create reflective surfaces typical of Archipenko’s fragmented style, in which, the artists break apart the female form and reassemble it to his liking. The artist places the way in an interior space, that though distorted, continues to close off the figure from the outside world, compressing her within a pictorial space of social confinement and locking her into domesticity.[16] Eakins Study of a Seated Nude Woman Wearing a Mask compares to Archipenko’s In the Boudoir, in that, there is little attention paid to the actual model.  Objectification of the form presented is similar to Eakins nude study, in which the rough, blocky massing of solid, lit, and shadowed forms reflects his emphasis on the essential construction of the human figure rather than details of pose or anatomy.[17]

Under the scrutiny of the latest wave of feminism and modern-day movements, such as Me Too and Time’s Up, society has begun to question not only living men of power, but also legendary artists, like Thomas Eakins.

Eakins combined in his work his profound artistic and scientific Contradictory in every way the twisted episodes present Eakins in a less than flattering light and liken him with a sexual predator. Thomas Eakins has been portrayed as a tormented soul, and legendary painter by sympathizers and as a sexually ambivalent, bully, an exhibitionist, who was possibly guilty of bestiality and incest with female relatives. Under the scrutiny of the latest wave of feminism and modern-day movements, such as Me Too and Time’s Up, society has begun to question not only living men of power, but also legendary artists, like Thomas Eakins. Over the last few decades, evidence has emerged to suggest Eakins was a sexual predator implicating that not only did he cross several lines with his subjects and students but have also shown a disturbing pattern of the alleged abuse.

It would appear as if the moral and social reputation of Thomas Eakins has come full circle. What perhaps started as a semi-successful career, was quickly tarnished by the artist’s violation of the standard of beauty, followed by his offensive and deplorable behavior. It was only in the years after his death when viewers began to see him in a positive light, once his actions began to dissipate and all that remained was his work alone. Today, however, Eakins name is once again associated with judgment as he begins to be held accountable for his actions and the novelty of his rebellious nature fades away.


[1]Clark, William J. “The Iconography of Gender in Thomas Eakins Portraiture.” Accessed March 11, 2019.

[2]Clark, William J. “The Iconography of Gender in Thomas Eakins Portraiture.” Accessed March 11, 2019.

[3]Clark, William J. “The Iconography of Gender in Thomas Eakins Portraiture.” Accessed March 11, 2019.

[4]Clark, William J. “The Iconography of Gender in Thomas Eakins Portraiture.” Accessed March 11, 2019.

[5]Clark, William J. “The Iconography of Gender in Thomas Eakins Portraiture.” Accessed March 11, 2019.

[6] Clark, William J.“The Iconography of Gender in Thomas Eakins Portraiture.” Accessed March 11, 2019.

[7]Muller, Kevin R.Women on the Verge: The Culture of Neurasthenia in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: College Art Association, Inc, 2005.

[8]Muller, Kevin R.Women on the Verge: The Culture of Neurasthenia in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: College Art Association, Inc, 2005.

[9]Muller, Kevin R. Women on the Verge: The Culture of Neurasthenia in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: College Art Association, Inc, 2005.

[10]Muller, Kevin R. Women on the Verge: The Culture of Neurasthenia in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: College Art Association, Inc, 2005.

[11]Adams, Henry, and Thomas Eakins. Eakins Revealed: The Secret Life of an American Artist. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press, 2005.

[12]Adams, Henry, and Thomas Eakins. Eakins Revealed: The Secret Life of an American Artist. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press, 2005.

[13]Burns, Sarah. “Ordering the Artist’s Body: Thomas Eakins’s Acts of Self‐Portrayal.” American Art19, no. 1 (2005): 82-107. doi:10.1086/429976.

[14]Art, Philadelphia Museum of. “In the Boudoir (Before the Mirror).” Philadelphia Museum of Art. Accessed April 04, 2019.

[15]Art, Philadelphia Museum of. “In the Boudoir (Before the Mirror).” Philadelphia Museum of Art. Accessed April 04, 2019.

[16]: Art, Philadelphia Museum of. “In the Boudoir (Before the Mirror).” Philadelphia Museum of Art. Accessed April 04, 2019.

[17]Art, Philadelphia Museum of. “Study of a Seated Nude Woman Wearing a Mask.” Philadelphia Museum of Art. Accessed April 18, 2019.|260.


Adams, Henry, and Thomas Eakins. Eakins Revealed: The Secret Life of an American Artist. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Art, Philadelphia Museum of. “In the Boudoir (Before the Mirror).” Philadelphia Museum of Art. Accessed April 04, 2019.

Art, Philadelphia Museum of. “Study of a Seated Nude Woman Wearing a Mask.” Philadelphia Museum of Art. Accessed April 18, 2019.|260.

Burns, Sarah. “Ordering the Artist’s Body: Thomas Eakins’s Acts of Self‐Portrayal.” American Art 19, no. 1 (2005): 82-107. doi:10.1086/429976.

Clark, William J. “The Iconography of Gender in Thomas Eakins Portraiture.” Accessed March 11, 2019.

Erwin, Robert. “Who Was Thomas Eakins?” The Antioch Review 66, no. 4 (2008): 655-64.

Muller, Kevin R. Women on the Verge: The Culture of Neurasthenia in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: College Art Association, Inc, 2005.

Parry, Ellwood C. “Thomas Eakins’s “Naked Series” Reconsidered: Another Look at the Standing Nude Photographs Made for the Use of Eakins’s Students.” American Art Journal 20, no. 2 (1988): 53-77. doi:10.2307/1594507.

Spotting the Hermaphrodite

Spotting the Hermaphrodite

Belicia Kingsley


When searching up the painting ‘A reading from Homer’ by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema on google images, it is to be pointed out the many cropped copies of the work are on display. In figure one, the original work by Sir Lawrence painted six people at a festival engaging in a conversation about an excerpt from Homer. The setting of this place in this oil painting must be somewhere in Greece toward the end of the seventh century BCE. What tells the viewer this is a turn of the century painting in Greece are the people shown in here. In figure 1 the standard look of a man and woman are displayed by the couple sitting down in the center of the painting.

Figure 1, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1885, Oil on canvas. 36 1/8 inches × 6 feet 1/4 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A young man and woman together holding hands while listening to this poet speak. The woman wears all white representing purity followed by a flower crown to symbolize fertility and marriage. The man holding her hand seems to be the one grabbing it in the first place, shows dominance and protection. Protection from the poet looking right at his lady as he speaks. This man is the speaker and is one of the main focal points of the painting. He is dressed as a philosopher with a pink tunic. This young businessman also wears a laurel wreath to represent victory soon to come. He is the representation of the ideal man people look up to, literally. The young man lying on the ground is not dressed to standard as of the rest. With his short fur dress, some may think he is simply dressed for the occasion. Is the artist showing off his talent of different textures he can achieve or is he making a different statement? This young man is laying in a ‘feminine’ position while wearing such a short dress. If he moves a certain way a passing patron might see up his dress. Is this a possible Hermaphrodite? This moves the viewer to the last and final person in the painting. The young woman cut off on the left-hand side of the work is the last person one may notice but tells an important message to the world. At first glance, she does not seem to be a woman until acknowledging a similar flower crown on her head worn like the other woman in the painting. She is not too feminine and is shown in a short dark dress, this too may be a hermaphrodite. But the thing that the viewer must ask themselves is why is she cut off in the painting? This was clearly intentional by the artist. The goal of this article is spotting the hermaphrodite and how Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema accurately represents how they are looked at in society during the 19th century.

Figure 2 Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun, Self Portrait in a Straw Hat, 1782 Oil on canvas 38 1/2 × 27 4/5 in The National Gallery, London

Understanding the hermaphrodite is not complicated when explained by Author Mary D. Sheriff. Discussing this article, it is to point out the oil painting by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, figure 2 titled ‘Self-portrait Painting in a Straw Hat’ and the controversy she made in the Salon of 1783. In this oil painting, she presents herself as a female painter and art historian. Placing herself in a man’s position she was a female hermaphrodite because of the knowledge she had. In this self-portrait painting, Le Brun indicates that she is aware of the symbolism used by other male art historians, therefore, making her a hermaphrodite. Le Brun mimicked the virile position of a man by performing a man’s intellect political, or social functions. The placement of her hands suggests of a limp penis imitating she had one mentally. But Le Brun does not completely neglect the feminine characteristics. The fresh flowers worn were and still associated with female fertility just like the female hermaphrodite in ’A reading from Homer’ is. She also wears the low-cut pink dress for a tease and taste of eroticism. But the rise of the femme-home developed in the late eighteenth- century and was becoming more common in women who did not what the housewife lifestyle and women hermaphrodites like Le Brun were looked up to.

Around this time a man named Oscar Wilde was and still is widely known for his homosexuality and asceticism. Wilde himself was known to be a flamboyantly gay man and often portrayed the aesthete of the female figure throughout his work. One of his most famous writings were the story of Salome, a female hermaphrodite. She was the woman who requested the head of John the Baptist. According to Renate Lorenz in “Salomania – Trans and Trans-temporal: A Queer Archaeology of Destructiveness” this story had much controversy and was later made into a dance in England where women met privately to dance Salome’s dance. This was such a huge movement that it was soon called ‘Salomania’. In fact, it got so much attention that in August of 1908, it came to the U.S.A and New York Times stated that President Roosevelt prohibited the ‘fad’ of Salomania from spreading over into the USA. Many women looked at the story of Salome as being very empowering and Lorenz herself stated,

“ I would like to look into the figure of Salome, since I suspect that, even amid violent social circumstances such as colonial history, homophobia, and Taylorism, this figure made it possible to live and fantasize about sexuality and gender outside gender binarism and heteronormativity, and without resorting to new fixed identity formations.”

Beardsley, Aubrey Vincent, The Toilette of Salome I. 1894, Line block print on Japanese vellum. 343 mm sheet, 272 mm sheet. V&A London Museum of Art.

(Lorenz, Renate). Salome was an iconic figure to the hermaphrodite community and was later shown in many works of art. Salome was excepting to the mental and physical hermaphrodites that called out her name. When Aubrey Beardsley illustrated a series of the story of Salome it had gotten more attention than others and was even taken to court for being too erotic. Both Beardsley and Wilde were openly gay men who shared similar views on the female and male hermaphrodites. But unlike Alma-Tadema in Figure 1, Beardsley portrayed the physical female and male hermaphrodites rather than the cross-dressers. In figure 1 Alma-Tadema’s work showed the female hermaphrodite cut off to the side and the male laying front and centered in the painting. It was an indication of the attitude towards how Alma-Tadema and the rest of society felt about female hermaphrodites during the 19th century. Whereas in Beardsley’s depiction figure 3 ‘The Toilette of Salome’, it depicts a woman hermaphrodite on the right side of the illustration with breasts and a penis holding a tray of refreshments to give to Salome. She is shown to be happy and nude standing right next to Salome in the chair at the top center of the print. This may be because Salome was an inspiration to so many hermaphrodites. The artist uses a hierarchy of scale to show how Salome is somewhat of a goddess in these people’s eyes. She even has her own barber, commonly known as a man’s hairstylist. Moving to the left of the painting, the last two people are depicted. The female standing while playing some sort of an instrument, she too is a cross-dresser like the female hermaphrodite in figure 1’s painting wearing a short dress and exposing her legs. But when looking at the last figure sitting down next to the musician it is unclear what sex this person is. But taking a closer look it depicts a man masturbating to Salome. Beardsley gave him long hair and slim figure unlike the barber to blend in with the rest of the female figures. This represents the eroticism Salome carries to the male gaze and the shame that men hold to glorifying such a woman. Beardsley wasn’t against male hermaphrodites, but he just was not in favor of them as much as the female ones. He was different from artists like Alma-Tadema that were not a fan of the female hermaphrodite. But in favor of the male hermaphrodites simply because women were and could never be as relevant as men were, even if they do think and dress like one.

Looking back throughout history it is to no surprise that women were seen less than a man was. In Sharonrose Sefora’s article, she writes that during this time period European professions were of the gentlemen’s clubs. Despite status, income or profession women were not allowed in these clubs as they did not “possess suitable qualification” as well as “deemed unfit to enter the public sphere in which professions operated”(Sefora, Sharonrose). Soon a new movement was created in hope for equality in gender mixing. A group of women in Europe started a movement to obstruct the male-dominated fields and demanded entry into the gentlemen’s clubs. That being capable to do occupations that men do such as medicine, law, accountancy, and engineering. Though it was hard to get there, there were still obstacles women had to face as not being equal to a man. In many cases, women would cross-dress to go to work or to achieve a career goal. During the 19th century, many women would refuse to go to the doctors because they didn’t want a male doctor tending them. So, when a woman by the name of Agnodice became a doctor she knew of the sexism that followed this career. She tricked many patients into thinking she was a man by dressing like one. But when women started demanding more women doctors this was Agnodice’s chance to expose herself once and for all.

“The woman, thinking she was a man, refused her help; but Agnodice lifted up her clothes and revealed herself to be a woman and was thus able to treat her patient. When the male doctors found that their services were not wanted by the women, they began to accuse Agnodice, saying that she had seduced the women and they accused the women of feigning illness [to get visits from Agnodice]”(McLaughlin, Bette)

Hermaphrodites such as Agnodice were a threat to men. In this very case, she had to go to court and fight for her power of knowledge. If only she would have stayed portraying herself as a man could she have had a quiet lifestyle?

Anshutz on Anatomy, 1912.John Sloan. Etching,7 5/16 × 8 7/8 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Women like Agnodice were tired of the standard rolls women had to play. Women wanted to explore the knowledge and had different dreams than being a housewife. Unfortunately, women, unlike Agnodice, didn’t know once they were expected into these fields of study that these classes would continue to underestimate the abilities of a woman. In this next painting, figure 4, it was to show the shifting of a class due to the presence of new female students arriving. What is so striking about this drawing is that was that the model not is completely nude like they should be. The male model was instructed to cover up his genitals due to the women now attending the class. It is because women cannot handle themselves to see such a thing, even if they knew what they were signing up for. Men thought that they couldn’t handle what they do so women still were not getting what they wanted in the first place, to be treated equally. This is why so many women cross-dressed.

In figure 1 the artist painted a somewhat accurate woman hermaphrodite. When women dressed as of man, they did it because they wanted to be treated like one. Women would very often cross-dress when traveling because it was safer. (Moon, Cameron Elizabeth, and Jennifer Paff Ogle). It is possible that this woman hermaphrodite in figure 1 is dressing for safety at this festival. She does not seem to be with anyone attending to this new place, but it is most likely not true due to the flower crown she wears. When a woman cross dress they do it so it is unrecognizable for the effect of being treated like a man. However, in this case, Ama decides to show her in a flower crown to tell the viewer what sex she really is even if this is not what she was originally wearing. The artist then cuts her off to implicate to the audience how women hermaphrodites were not in the limelight and were looked down upon.

In conclusion, it is to say that being a woman hermaphrodite was the best of both worlds. The body and seduction of a woman, but the intellect of a man was truly a power that only Goddess held. It was to no remorse that these women were a threat to the men of the 19th century. Ama Tadema shows an accurate way of how they were looked at in society by cutting her off in the painting and dressing her in a way were many hermaphrodites did back then. Spotting a woman hermaphrodite wasn’t supposed to be obvious. They used for the safety of their lives. But when one does make it clear that they are in fact a woman hermaphrodite like Le Brun or Salome one can witness the power and influence they held and still do hold today. I guess that the saying “Women can do anything men can do and do it in 5-inch heels.” is true.


Lorenz, Renate. “Salomania – Trans and Trans-Temporal: A Queer Archaeology of Destructiveness.” Critical Studies 36, (2012): 111-132,211.

McLaughlin, Bette. “Agnodice: Cross-Dressing in Fourth Century BC Greece!” Dawnno. 21 (Nov 30, 1997): 10.

Moon, Cameron Elizabeth, and Jennifer Paff Ogle. “The ‘Hybrid Hero’ in Western Dime Novels: An Analysis of Women’s Gender Performance, Dress, and Identity in the Deadwood Dick Series.” Clothing and Textiles Research Journal 31, no. 2 (April 2013): 109–24. doi:10.1177/0887302X13478162.

Sefora, Sharonrose. “Professional Men, Professional Women: The European Professions from the 19th Century Until Today.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 13, no. 3 (08, 2012): 194-196.

Sheriff, Mary D. “WOMAN? HERMAPHRODITE? HISTORY PAINTER? ON THE SELF-IMAGING OF ELISABETH VIGÉE-LEBRUN.” The Eighteenth Century 35, no. 1 (Spring, 1994): 3.

Comparison the Nativity to the Annunciation 

The Annunciation,Henry Ossawa Tanner, American (active France)1898, oil on canvas, Philadelphia museum of art
The Nativity,William Blake, English, 1799 or 1800, tempera on cooper, Philadelphia museum of art
The two art pieces I am going to compare are The Nativity, by William Blake and The Annunciation by Henry Tanner. These two paintings depict Virgin Mary in two different situations and convey messages to the person looking at the art piece. Each painting is unique but they both have many similarities and differences.
The Nativity by William Blake is from 1799 or 1800. The Virgin Mary is looking almost to fall asleep. And her husband Joseph is behind her which is supporting her. She is wearing a white dress and swooning on the ground. The baby Jesus is hovering in the air and there is a circle of light shining around him. Saint Elizabeth is Virgin Mary’s cousin, she is sitting down on the ground. She is wearing a blue dress, and a white scarf on her head. She is using both of her hands to receive the newborn Jesus. Her child rests in her lap. The interior is a small wooden house, on the wall, there is a window, you can see the god through there.
The Second piece is The Annunciation, it is from 1898, which is later than the previous one. For the medium, this one is oil on canvas, but the Nativity is tempera on copper. They both are made in Europe, but the Nativity is from England, and the Annunciation is from Paris. In the painting of the Annunciation, there is only Virgin Mary in the image who she is sitting by the edge of the bed, and there is a beam of light which is god. She is looking at the god and holding hands of herself. Her face looks a little nervous. This Virgin Mary is wearing a long dress with a striped blanket. The interior for this image is brighter than the Nativity, also nicer. It has a red tapestry on the wall and a rug on the ground.
Both of these Virgin Mary are from two different years. They have different moods, posture, attitude and interior design. But they are still very similar that they both are in a small interior, and they both have Virgin Mary and god with light. Each of these paintings is very well done and amazing pieces of art.

PMA Comparison

In this essay I will be comparing Howard Roberts’ La Premiere Pose, and Henri Matisse’s Seated Nude, Back Turned. These images have a lot in common, beginning with their subject–they both feature seated nude woman as the focal point. In each of these works, the woman takes a shy position, as if we have stepped into their vulnerable space. In La Premiere Pose, the model looks down, her body folding inwards unconfidently. Her breasts are exposed but her genitals are hidden. The title of the work, “the first pose” indicates that it was the model’s first time posing, adding more to the idea that she was captured in a moment of vulnerability. In Matisse’s work, the woman is completely turned away from the viewer, and all we see besides her back is her slight profile as she sits pensively. It is as if she is considering turning around, but is too shy. The space that the figure occupies looks like it could be a home, which leads us to believe that this could either be her private space that she has let us into, or the artist’s home where she does not feel entirely comfortable.

While these works have similar subject matter, the formal qualities differ greatly. Howard Roberts’ work is a life sized marble statue. The figure is seated in an extravagant chair with drapery on it, but other than that, the figure does not exist in any specific space. Alternatively, Matisse’s work is a relatively small, 18×24 oil painting. The figure in this work does exist in a somewhat understandable space. There is a chair and a wood floor, and some patterned linens, which points to this taking place in a home. Because La Premiere Pose is a marble sculpture, it is devoid of color entirely. The all-over white adds to the purity of the woman featured. Matisse added color to the background of Seated Nude, but the figure has almost none, not even a red in her cheeks. This could also be a sign of purity, or nervousness from this clearly shy woman. Though these works were created in very different mediums and very different styles, they both feature a timid, female model in a state of vulnerability.

(Left) Henri Matisse, Seated Nude, Back Turned, 1917, oil on canvas.

(Right) Howard Roberts, La Premiere Pose, 1873-1876, marble.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Reflection

The 800s Through A Feminine Lense

Upon walking into the Impressionist/Post Impressionist wing in the Met, one is affronted with paintings typical of this era and artistic school of aesthetic. Constantly surrounded by Rodin in the hallway, and thereafter met with Manet, Courbet, Renoir.

Going further into the 800s, you are met with less typical artistic styles than maybe you would expect. Gallery 821, for instance, takes scenes from mundanity and turns them into romanticized and stylized images presented for your gaze. The nude female is presented in this room as a aesthetic to be viewed and consumed, similar to a vase of flowers or a peaceful seaside scene.

Instead of presenting the woman as a figure in her environment (as we saw in Galleries 821 and 828) or as a focal point of present domestic values, Gallery 829 displays paintings that focus on the aestheticism of the female form and exemplify them for their beauty, accentuated by the surrounding colours and ornamentation. The painting here, done by Gustav Klimt, displays these aspects beautifully. Klimt portrays the child both in a manner that commands attention and accentuates her youth and femininity. The colours used in the composition, as well as the flowers that are Klimt’s trademark, help to accentuate these details.

In Galleries 810&11 we see women portrayed in a more familiar manner. All of the portraits in these galleries are very intimate but the two that have been brought to attention are Manet’s painting of Victorine Meurent and Courbet’s of Jo Heffernin.

Jo, La Belle Irlandaise

My personal favorite of the two is Courbet’s painting of Jo. He emphasizes Jo’s hair, displaying it in a vibrant red and her fingers are running through it in a way that dishevels it and forces it to fill the composition. She is looking at her reflection in a hand mirror and her face is concentrated, almost concerned, This painting does not feel as though it is one of vanity or ego. She more so seems perplexed at her own tresses, and seems caught in a moment of deep contemplation.

Conversely, Manet’s depiction of Victorine is reserved and demure. Her hands are arranged daintily in front of her and she does not expose much skin if at all. Her dress is an off white, almost pale pink and there is a partially eaten fruit at the bottom of the painting. Unlike Courbet, and his honest and straightforward depiction of Jo, Manet has chosen to use imagery and color to portray Victorine’s characteristics. Suppose the juxtaposition of Victorine’s off-white(not quite virginal) dress and the partially devoured fruit in the painting suggest an idea of Victorine partially losing her innocence or on the verge of giving it to someone. The painting is almost as focused on her as she is on the artist, giving the painting an almost pointed, singular feeling.