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My Notes on Massive Open Online Course:
Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender
What do paintings tell us about sex? How is art gendered? In this course we will study some of the world’s most beloved pictures guided by expert curators and art historians who step outside of the square, bringing a gendered reading to the masterpieces contained in the magnificent collections that we have been lucky enough to bring to the Coursera platform.
Notes on 11 Lectures I Watched in This Course:
Tiepolo´s Cleopatra: Agency in Paint
The Political and Sexual Agency of Cleopatra
Gainesborough and 18th Century Effeminism
Soldiers, Chivalry, and Men of Feeling
Gainsborough's Portrait of Karl Friedrich Abel
The Ligoniers: The Tensions of Gender in Paint
Effeminacy and the Culture of Sensibility
Gainsborough's Cottage Door: Charity and Sensibility
Seduction in Boucher's pastoral paintings
Boucher's Madame de Pompadour: Controlling the Gaze
Rococo Eroticism in 18th Century Popular Culture
5 People I Have Learned About in this Course:
Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)
Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England, after enjoying great success in Italy and Flanders
  • most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next 150 years
  • also painted biblical and mythological subjects
  • born to prosperous parents in Antwerp
  • at the age of fifteen he was already a highly accomplished artist
  • Rubens referred to the nineteen-year-old van Dyck as the best of my pupils
  • in 1620, van Dyck went to England for the first time where he worked for King James I of England
  • in 1621, he moved to Italy, where he remained for 6 years
  • since his accession in 1625, Charles I was trying to bring leading foreign painters to England
  • in 1632, van Dyck returned to London, and was taken under the wing of the court immediately, being knighted in July
  • was an immediate success in England, rapidly painting a large number of portraits of the King and Queen Henrietta Maria, as well as their children
  • in England he developed a version of his style which combined a relaxed elegance and ease with an understated authority in his subjects which was to dominate English portrait-painting to the end of the 18th century
Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)
A French artist and sculptor, and animalière (painter of animals) known for her artistic realism
  • her most well-known painting is Labourage nivernais, first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1848, and now at Musée d’Orsay in Paris
  • another famous painting is Le marché aux chevaux which was exhibited at the Salon of 1853 and is now in the New York Metropolitan Museum
  • Rosa Bonheur was claimed to be the the most famous woman painter of her time, perhaps of all time
  • Paulhan criticized her Labourage nivernais, arguing that good art simplifies, and that it was spoiled with the execution of the clods of earth
  • according to Bonheur, these clods were painted in a heartwarming way, but according to Paulhan, she did not create, but merely reproduced, providing too much insignificant detail, and weakened nature by reproducing it
  • Paul Cézanne was also unimpressed, commenting that it is horribly like the real thing
François Boucher (1703-1770)
French painter, draughtsman and etcher who worked in the Rococo style, known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes
  • perhaps the most celebrated painter and decorative artist of the 18th century
  • painted several portraits of his patroness, Madame de Pompadour
  • a native of Paris, Boucher was the son of a lesser known painter Nicolas Boucher
  • at his death, along with that of his patron Madame de Pompadour, had become synonymous with the French Rococo style
  • "Boucher is one of those men who represent the taste of a century, who express, personify and embody it."
Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764)
A member of the French court and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to 1751
  • took charge of the king's schedule and was a valued aide and advisor, despite her frail health and many political enemies
  • secured titles of nobility for herself and her relatives, and built a network of clients and supporters
  • she was particularly careful not to alienate the Queen, Marie Leszczyńska
  • she was a major patron of architecture and decorative arts
  • was a patron of the philosophes of the Enlightenment
  • contemporary opinion supported by artwork from the time considered her to be beautiful, with her small mouth and oval face enlivened by her wit
  • her husband was soon infatuated with her and she was celebrated in the fashionable world of Paris
  • she founded her own salon, at Étiolles, and was joined by many philosophes, among them Voltaire.
  • in February 1745, she was invited to a royal masked ball at the Palace of Versailles
  • by March, she was the king's mistress, installed at Versailles in an apartment directly above his
  • by May, the official separation between her and her husband was pronounced
  • on 14 September, she was formally introduced to the court by the king's cousin, the Princess de Conti, and she quickly mastered the highly mannered court etiquette
  • she and Louis XV ended their sexual relationship after 1750, but remained intimate friends
  • Louis XV was devoted to her until her death from tuberculosis in 1764 at the age of forty-two
  • Voltaire wrote of her death: "I am very sad at the death of Madame de Pompadour. I was indebted to her and I mourn her out of gratitude. It seems absurd that while an ancient pen-pusher, hardly able to walk, should still be alive, a beautiful woman, in the midst of a splendid career, should die at the age of forty-two."
Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806)
French painter and printmaker whose late Rococo manner was distinguished by remarkable facility, exuberance, and hedonism
  • one of the most prolific artists active in the last decades of the Ancien Régime, Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings (not counting drawings and etchings)
  • among his most popular works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism
  • while working at the French Academy in Rome, he toured Italy, executing numerous sketches of local scenery and it was in these romantic gardens, with their fountains, grottos, temples and terraces, that Fragonard conceived the dreams which he was subsequently to render in his art
  • before a portrait of his was bought by the king, Fragonard had hesitated between religious, classic and other subjects, but the subsequent demand of the wealthy art patrons of Louis XV's pleasure-loving and licentious court turned him definitely towards those scenes of love and voluptuousness with which his name will ever be associated, and which are only made acceptable by the tender beauty of his color and the virtuosity of his facile brushwork, such works including the Le collin maillard (Blind Man's Bluff), Serment d'amour (Love Vow), Le Verrou (The Bolt), and L'Escarpolette (The Swing)
  • for half a century or more he was so completely ignored that Wilhelm Lübke's 1873 art history volume omits the very mention of his name
  • subsequent reevaluation has confirmed his position among the all-time masters of French painting
  • the influence of Fragonard's handling of local color and expressive, confident brushstroke on the Impressionists cannot be overestimated
7 Vocabulary Words I Learned in this Course:
abstemiousness, n. [ab-STEEM-ee-us-ness] the quality of being temperate or sparing in the use of food and strong drinks  "Two sides of the 19th century culture of sensibility's orientation toward reform were (1) the liberation of women from their internalized and brutally enforced limitation, and (2) reformation of the character of men, and both stemmed in part from the reformist impulses of women who sought to change manners from the vice, profanity, and wantonness in the dueling culture of the masculine sphere, to a way of life that celebrated virtue, abstemiousness, piousness, charity, homeliness, and an appreciation of the arts, and while these values were generally considered to be feminine, the fundamental intention was to reshape men, although each sex was to be softened and sensitized."
bodice, n. [BAW-diss] an article of clothing for women covering the body from the neck to the waist  "The brooch in the center of her bodice shows a classical female figure."
coif, v. to style or arrange someone's hair  "When analyzing Boucher's painting Leçon de flute, one must remember that these are not real shepherds and shepherdesses who work in the fields, but idealized shepherds and shepherdesses who wander around the landscape all day with their sheep and think about nothing but love, and therefore the sheep which gather around them in the paintings are always perfectly coiffed."
ingratiating, adj. intended to gain approval or favor  "The horse is made to take on some of the characteristics of femininity, even ingratiating femininity."
low church, n. a term of distinction in the Church of England or other Anglican churches initially designed to be pejorative. Those who favored the theology, worship, and hierarchical structure of Anglicanism, such as the episcopate, as the true form of Christianity, began referring to that outlook and its related practices as the high church. In contrast, by the early 18th century, those theologians and politicians who sought more reform in the English church and a greater liberalization of church structure, were called low church. Low church, in an Anglican context, denotes the church's simplicity or Protestant emphasis, and high church denotes an emphasis on ritual or, later, Anglo-Catholicism.  "Having been brought up in the low church, and no doubt influenced by the sermons that his own father read sometimes in their own church, Gainsborough took up the church's drive against the cruelty to animals in a determined way."
putto, n. (plural "putti"), a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually naked and sometimes winged, often called a cherub although unlike the Biblical cherub which were sacred, putti are secular and usually represent a non-religious passion  "Madame Pompadour's bust is framed by little putti which are characteristic of 17th century French and Italian art in particular."
trepanation, n. based on the Greek word "trypanon", literally "borer" or "auger", a surgical intervention in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the human skull. In the Middle Ages, holes were drilled into a person's head who was behaving in what was considered an abnormal way to let out what they believed were evil spirits. Later in the 18th and 19th centuries, trepanation was also a primitive emergency surgery after head wounds to remove shattered bits of bone from a fractured skull and clean out the blood that often pools under the skull after a blow to the head.  "In the opening volleys in the battle of Germantown, St. George was shot in the head and taken from the field where he was trepanned, leaving him with a hole in the side of his skull. The wound was later hidden with a disfiguring silver plate habitually covered by Saint George with a black silk cap and it never healed. He lived thereafter with a considerable part of his head shot away, and though feeble, emaciated, and in almost constant pain, his imagination and his virtues have nothing of their vigor."