Nature Versus Grace

PHOTOGRAPHY STUDENT |
www.georgiaamy.com
"The Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years’ War(1568–1648) for Dutch independence.”
One of the dutch masters was Johannes Vermeer. Pictured above is his beautiful portrait ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’.  Vermeer’s masterpiece depicts a girl wearing a turban and with a pearl earring shining in from the shadow. The painting was originally named ‘The Girl with a Turban’. The turban as a prop in paintings was a popular one and shows the influence of other countries/cultures. Items like this were brought to the Netherlands by explorers. Depiction of the luxurious nature of the fabric demonstrated artistic technique. The ultramarine blue and gold colours in the turban is something which stands out among the other wise neutral colours. The rich tone of her clothing also alludes the idea of luxury. The use of shadows define the girls skin and help to create a three dimensional effect  (also accentuated by the dark background). Her skin appears soft and luminous which adds to her beautiful femininity. Vermeer used the camera obscurer to aid him in creating this photo realistic look. 
"Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of over forty images of women created by Vermeer and thus it is obvious that he had a keen interest in women’s socio-cultural roles. It could be argued that he valued their role in maintaining his idealist way of life by ensuring order within the household and raising children within Christian values. Therefore, women played a pivotal role in safeguarding tradition and moral values through the generations.Vermeer depicted his women in thought-provoking stillness and also as encouraging images that inspired homogeny.With this painting the viewer is captured by the subject and believes they have caught her attention and caused her to turn her head. This is a sensual painting with the girl gazing at the viewer with wide eyes and a parted mouth and there is an air of mystery surrounding her identity.”
The deep red lips against pale skin with rosy cheeks and dark eyes echo the ideals of beauty from the renaissance period. 
http://www.artble.com/artists/johannes_vermeer/paintings/girl_with_a_pearl_earring#story_theme

"The Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years’ War(1568–1648) for Dutch independence.”

One of the dutch masters was Johannes Vermeer. Pictured above is his beautiful portrait ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’.  Vermeer’s masterpiece depicts a girl wearing a turban and with a pearl earring shining in from the shadow. The painting was originally named ‘The Girl with a Turban’. The turban as a prop in paintings was a popular one and shows the influence of other countries/cultures. Items like this were brought to the Netherlands by explorers. Depiction of the luxurious nature of the fabric demonstrated artistic technique. The ultramarine blue and gold colours in the turban is something which stands out among the other wise neutral colours. The rich tone of her clothing also alludes the idea of luxury. The use of shadows define the girls skin and help to create a three dimensional effect  (also accentuated by the dark background). Her skin appears soft and luminous which adds to her beautiful femininity. Vermeer used the camera obscurer to aid him in creating this photo realistic look. 

"Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of over forty images of women created by Vermeer and thus it is obvious that he had a keen interest in women’s socio-cultural roles. It could be argued that he valued their role in maintaining his idealist way of life by ensuring order within the household and raising children within Christian values. Therefore, women played a pivotal role in safeguarding tradition and moral values through the generations.
Vermeer depicted his women in thought-provoking stillness and also as encouraging images that inspired homogeny.
With this painting the viewer is captured by the subject and believes they have caught her attention and caused her to turn her head. This is a sensual painting with the girl gazing at the viewer with wide eyes and a parted mouth and there is an air of mystery surrounding her identity.”

The deep red lips against pale skin with rosy cheeks and dark eyes echo the ideals of beauty from the renaissance period. 

http://www.artble.com/artists/johannes_vermeer/paintings/girl_with_a_pearl_earring#story_theme

"Baroque art was brought to life through education. People from all social classes were expanding their minds, exploring nontraditional subjects; this progression was reflected in art from all over Western Europe between 1600-1750. The style of Baroque paintings exemplifies the period’s desire to discover unknown realms. Their oversized backgrounds and distracted subjects leave the paintings open, continuous, and seemingly incomplete, alluding to the period’s intense preoccupation with the unknown. Baroque paintings also show the variation which characterizes both discovery and thought in Europe at that time.

[…]As previously stated, the roles of women in the world began to expand to include activities outside of the home, thereby elevating their status in society enough to warrant their presence in paintings. Though society opened up for women, their place in art still portrayed them as homemakers or servants. Women were frequently put off to the side, as a servant, as an accessory to the central focus. In 1606, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus shows three men and Jesus seated around a table with a woman servant in the background. The woman is almost completely hidden in the dark; only her head and shoulders are detectable. However, about sixty years later, in Jan Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Jug, a servant woman is the focus of the piece. Overtime, progress was occurring. Portraits often reflected another typical role of women: a noblesse. Baroque portraits were often painted in a nontraditional stance and setting, as seen in Joshua Reynold’s Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse (see right). The woman is sitting in a lax pose, distracted by something to her right with menacing figures in the background. Women in the Baroque era were also put into sexual roles. In works such as William Hogarth’s The Harlot’s Progress and The Orgy, women are either prostitutes, mistresses, or simply promiscuous.”

http://www.angelfire.com/art2/women2/fem1.html

naturevgrace:

The Birth of Venus (Botticelli) 1486
Feminine beauty flows from the famous image of Botticelli’s venus. The central figure Venus is an incandescent beauty with ethereal godliness. Her skin is luminescent, her hair is flowing gold and her form exhibits the beautiful natural curves of a woman. Here, love has been shaped into a nude goddess and is encapsulated in her presence. The image derives from the early renaissance and the beauty of the female conforms to the idea of beauty at the time. As I have discussed before, hair was a symbolism of beauty and has a great presence in the painting. The body type and soft features also comply with renaissance ideals for female beauty. Venus gracefully holds her hands, one placed over herself for modesty, the other over her heart, again connecting her character to love. Even the slight tilt in her head and point of her toes allude femininity. Here the feminine is paired with the idea of nature and Venus is welcomed from sea to land with a shower of roses carried in the west wind ( the idea of roses comes from the myth of venus’s birth). There is a theme of gold running thorough the painting from detail on the flowers and trees to Venus’ hair and the shell she is carried on. A a symbol gold is connected to wealth and the divine- emphasising Venus’ goddess status. 

naturevgrace:

The Birth of Venus (Botticelli) 1486

Feminine beauty flows from the famous image of Botticelli’s venus. The central figure Venus is an incandescent beauty with ethereal godliness. Her skin is luminescent, her hair is flowing gold and her form exhibits the beautiful natural curves of a woman. Here, love has been shaped into a nude goddess and is encapsulated in her presence. The image derives from the early renaissance and the beauty of the female conforms to the idea of beauty at the time. As I have discussed before, hair was a symbolism of beauty and has a great presence in the painting. The body type and soft features also comply with renaissance ideals for female beauty. Venus gracefully holds her hands, one placed over herself for modesty, the other over her heart, again connecting her character to love. Even the slight tilt in her head and point of her toes allude femininity. Here the feminine is paired with the idea of nature and Venus is welcomed from sea to land with a shower of roses carried in the west wind ( the idea of roses comes from the myth of venus’s birth). There is a theme of gold running thorough the painting from detail on the flowers and trees to Venus’ hair and the shell she is carried on. A a symbol gold is connected to wealth and the divine- emphasising Venus’ goddess status. 

 

A similar painting (Nell Gwynne’ by Lely (1618-1680)) shows again a naked woman – her

 ‘nakedness is not, however, an expression of her own feelings; it is a sign of her submission to the owner’s feelings and demands’,

 showing the superior man controlling the representation of a woman for his own selfish reasons.  From this we can see that women had no real control over how they were represented. In addition to being represented as objects of luxury and sex women where also depicted as vain, particularly in the Renaissance, through the introduction of mirrors.

 As Berger rightly explains using (Vanity by Memling) as an example,

‘You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure’.

The male gaze is hypocritical. Berger goes on to describe the

 ‘real function of the mirror… to make the woman connive herself as first and foremost, a sight’.

IBID p.45

BERGER, JOHN, Ways of Seeing p.46

   Reclining Bacchante’ by Trutat (1824-1848)

This is an image that is seen similarly in a lot of fine art depicting a woman; particularly from earlier paintings. The painting shows a beautiful, naked woman reclining. She has been sexualised by her nakedness and becomes an object to gaze upon- a body, curves and contours, breasts and skin.  The man looking through the window gives the representation that the woman is an object of desire. Semiotics suggests richness and luxury - this links with sexuality and becoming an object.  The woman is an addition to the luxury, gold and animal print as another possession.  The painting depicts women as objects to be looked at, desired and admired (for their bodies) by man, contributing to the discourse at the time that men owned the women.  The way the man is looking (down) is also suggestive of the women’s station beneath men.

Reclining Bacchante’ by Trutat (1824-1848)

This is an image that is seen similarly in a lot of fine art depicting a woman; particularly from earlier paintings. The painting shows a beautiful, naked woman reclining. She has been sexualised by her nakedness and becomes an object to gaze upon- a body, curves and contours, breasts and skin.  The man looking through the window gives the representation that the woman is an object of desire. Semiotics suggests richness and luxury - this links with sexuality and becoming an object.  The woman is an addition to the luxury, gold and animal print as another possession.  The painting depicts women as objects to be looked at, desired and admired (for their bodies) by man, contributing to the discourse at the time that men owned the women.  The way the man is looking (down) is also suggestive of the women’s station beneath men.

The following posts are from a contextual studies essay I wrote looking at the gaze. This involved looking at imagery from the renaissance as well as other examples from art history and contemporary culture.  

“The Gaze” is the conscious awareness of being looked at- being the object of another’s observation, thus being objectified.  Knowing that we are exposed to someone else’s gaze causes us to be aware of ourselves and how we are being perceived and because of this we then begin to objectify ourselves.

 “Otherness’ and “The Gaze” interlink when considering the representation of women. Regarding the Male Gaze.

 ’Sartre argues that we, […], can become aware of ourselves only when confronted with the gaze of another’[i].

 Applying this thought, women have seen their gender become objectified for the male’s pleasure.

‘Woman […] stands in the patriarchal culture as a signifier for the male other […] man can live out his fantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman.’[ii]

 Imagery created for the male gaze introduces certain representations of women; these depictions are at risk of being applied to the whole gender, which is an effect of otherness.

  ‘Everything [we] see or hear serves to fix impressions, call forth emotions and associate ideas.’[iii]

 In films the woman is subjected to the male gaze. Even women spectators were thought to be masculinised whilst viewing. Laura Mulvey explained that

‘the female spectator might enjoy the fantasy of control and freedom over the narrative world that identification with the hero affords and that she can cross the lines of gender in her identification with the male hero because her gender itself is divided.’ [iv]

 Both terms “The Gaze” and “Otherness” can clearly be seen in the representations of women throughout time in popular culture and fine art. The earliest form of how women have been represented can be seen in Fine Art -and the male gaze is ever present.



 [ii]  MULVEY, LAURA , ed. By JONES, AMELIA, A Feminism and Visual Culture Reader p.44

[iii] MIRZOEFF, NICHOLAS, An Introduction to Visual Culture p.10

[iv] CHAUDHURI, SHOHINI, Feminist Film Theorists p.40

Raphael -Donna velata 
Titian -Profane Love- Vanity
Raphael- St Catherine of Alexandria
Leonardo da Vinic- Lady with Ermine
Memling- Vanity

New perceptions about culture were being formed in the renaissance and the perception of women in art was also affected by this. 

"The depiction of beauty in Renaissance art is shown to be more complex than a mere photograph-like representation of sexuality or of a person’s physical appearance. Instead, Renaissance art created physically perfect images resulting from scholarly expectation, the artist’s ambitions and his developing skills."

Some traits which were considered as beautiful in the paintings of the renaissance are: fair skin, with rosy cheeks and deep coloured lips, dark eyes, round faces a round forehead, and a long neck. Hands were painted to look graceful, whether they were holding things or not. All of these attributes can be seen in the examples above. Desired body type tended to be voluptuous with wide hips but with not overly large breasts. 

"When executing Lady with an Ermine, Leonardo da Vinci used groundbreaking techniques and the new oil medium. Cecilia Gallerani, the subject of the portrait, sits twisted with her face in a three-quarter view. Leonardo uses highlights and shadow to emphasize important elements of the portrait including the long, graceful hand stroking the ermine, the animal’s fur, and the young woman’s face.”

The idea of the male gaze vanity is apparent in many of the paintings. A very obvious image from this period in art history is  ’Vanity’ by Memling pictured above. 

In Ways of SeeingBerger said ‘Men look at women. women watch themselves being looked at.’ In the past (e.g. renaissance) men painted women and the end result was an image for man. In these images the women would often be looking into a mirror as opposed to directly at the viewer, aware of their status as an object but not confronting the viewer as a voyeur. Women were also trapped in their own reflections/image with the use of mirrors and the idea of appearance becomes very obviously important.

quotes: http://sirl.stanford.edu/~bob/teaching/pdf/arth202/Haughton_Renaissance_beauty_JCosmeticDermatology04.pdf

http://aquila.usm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1170&context=honors_theses

The Renaissance was a ‘new age’, this ‘re-birth’ introduced new thinking of the world with advancements in literature, art and culture. Humanism allowed people to question the church, and challenge the laws of nature and the world. This period marks a leap from the ‘dark ages’ and changed the way of art. Artists now used techniques to create paintings with a more multi dimensional look and had improved their take on perspective. The technique ‘chiaroscuro’ was used to create the impression of a three dimensional shape. One of the most famous painters of the renaissance is Leonardo da Vinci who was also mathematician and inventor among other things, (incredibly intellectual and multi-talented) an archetype of the renaissance man. 

I started writing down how I could further develop my practice and began to panic as I still don’t have my final look down. So, I thought it would be a good idea to pick an image from each shoot and see what my progress has been and look at this critically. 

I started off with the idea of a continuation of my minor project’s concept about beauty in the female. My aim was to develop my photographs and ideas. I wanted to experiment with different cameras, film and digital, studio and location, natural light and artificial light. I have definitely done this so far. I made a point of getting straight into shooting from the start of the brief as I knew my concept was so broad and difficult to summarise in a few images. I also wanted to improve on my previous practice which has been to do heavy research and not as much shooting. 

I started off in the studio with the developed idea of shooting females in the style of paintings particularly from the renaissance/baroque period and with particular inspiration from vermeer. I am happy with my choice of darker backgrounds as it was a characteristic of this type of art. I am also pleased with the effect achieved from my chosen lighting (soft box). There is definitely room for improvement in each shoot but I particularly like the poses of Rachel (inspired by the girl with the pearl earring) and Katie’s (images 4 and 5 above) I felt like these two really communicated what I was trying to say and still do. I have changed my aesthetic since then quite a lot and something which will not leave my mind as I do is the image of Rachel. In my latest tutorial Jamie mentioned preferring the white background self-portrait, my other lecturer Antony also liked those but liked the one of Rachel too. This is the singular image which makes me unsure of the final product and won’t leave my mind. So my progression from this was to try out using film and a large format camera to shoot on location, to capture both the landscape and the subject to show the beauty of both forms. Unfortunately there was no colour film and black and white was just something I knew I didn’t want to produce from the start.  Colours are important for connotations in my work which is focusing on the natural and feminine and also the painterly. After this I decided I didn’t really want to pursue this idea but was happy that I explored it. My next approach was to keep the idea of natural lighting as I am a fan of this preferably to studio lighting. I wanted to try shooting outside of the studio too but not outside. So I decided to use the same set up as my minor project of which I was pleased with. I think the gentle natural and feminine qualities become obvious in this and they become more of my style rather than more taking inspiration from richer painting palettes. I first shot myself in preparation as I intended to shoot Rachel again and wanted to map out what I was doing. This brought back the idea of the self-portrait and how the self is involved in the concept of beauty which is something I enjoy, and did for my last project. When in the tutorial Jamie said it would be a good idea to continue looking at the self. However, the concept is very similar and aesthetically similar also as my minor project and I felt there needed to be more of a difference to show a greater development. (other than my hair colour changing)! On trying to think how I could make these images differ I went on with my idea of using both my mam and myself as an anthropological type study of the female, genetics and age in a literal and simple way. Now as I said when taking notes onto how to further develop these images I decided I really needed to stop and assess my progress. I still feel like these newer images are safe, they do involve the concept I am looking at but the feel safe and through my art history research I have really felt that being influenced by portraits of the old masters that I have developed my minor project in a more direct way. I would like to go back and, keeping the favourite photograph of Rachel in mind, reshoot some in the same way improved from the other shoots. I think at this stage I need to carry on with my research and have a tutorial on returning to university to express my thoughts.