Topic 2: Practices of seeing: Looking and the gaze

Introduction to Looking and the Gaze

The current ubiquity of the image rather than direct observation is a new phenomenon – began with printing, then photography, lithography etc., now cheap digital technologies, huge ads on billboards, pictures on packets and t-shirts, logos and electronic images are easy and cheap to produce and very easy to disseminate.  (Older images were one off paintings or sculptures etc. – in a specific setting (e.g. church or portrait in private mansion) and for a specific purpose.)

  • multiple dimensions of framing an image
  • looking and the gaze.

Berger postulates a males and females as having a difference of gaze – man’s looking out on the world – an active persona of someone who acts and has power  within the world, woman’s introverted and dependent on the gaze of others for her persona – one who exists as a reflection of how others (and she herself) sees herself.

My comment – This is totally against modern feminist beliefs – but the current (and past) focus on creating the perfect female/male body is perpetuated in our entertainment (films, music videos), sport stars and advertising etc.  I consider that both males and females may be hung up on body image and how others see them.)  Berger, as a man, has a male perspective.  His ideas about males depicting the female body have some validity – nudes for the titillation of men – but women have long risen above this image of themselves as mere sex objects.

Images – 6 nudes including works by Titian, Rembrandt, Goya, Courbet (this one has stockings), Manet and one clothed reclining female by Susan Valadon (1865-1938).  My commentThese posed females all present the reclining female form facing the viewer in potential ‘come hither’ poses.  Courbet in his later years did a number of very revealing nude images including “The Origin of the world” – a woman’s vagina – these were for a Sultan Kahlil Bey – Greek diplomat (but are now on public display at Musee D’Orsay).  Courbet considered the work part of his realism output.  Manet’s work with the outward gaze challenging the viewer was controversial as it apparently allowed the woman the power to invite the gaze rather than passively giving herself.  

The idea of the male gaze as that imagined (by both genders) when making female images is still perpetuated in advertising, art and entertainment.  (There is a cult of youth and beauty for both sexes.)

‘ ‘The gaze’ (sometimes called ‘the look’) is a technical term which was originally used in film theory in the 1970s but which is now more broadly used by media theorists to refer both to the ways in which viewers look at images of people in any visual medium and to the gaze of those depicted in visual texts.‘ Cloud

Reading about The Judgement of Paris – critique and expansion of John Berger’s views –

Introduction to semiotics –

through the eye of the beholder -(pdf) – largely a graphic and written explanation of symbols in the visual arts.

  • a set of images outlining some definitions of words like symbol, image, icon, semiotics.
  • Also some learning activities about collecting and classifying symbols, Christian symbols, the Eureka flag as a symbol, the symbology in the work of Freda Kalo and Arthur Boyd, the symbolism of shapes and colours,
  • A brief introduction to symbolism in non-Western cultures (Aboriginal and Chinese), and symbolism in Western portraiture.

The Art Of Cindy Sherman – an article from NYSC Oneonta

  • The link to this article is not working.
  • Cites 1975 article by Laura Mulvey which stated a similar position to that of Berger on the role of women in film – that of passive manipulated object (for the pleasure and use of males) as opposed to the male position which is active doers in a male dominated world.
  • Sherman’s work points up this ironically – she is both viewer (through her camera lens) and viewed – as the subject in her work.  Thus the female comments from the male perspective – with irony.
  • Her work moved on from ‘Untitled film stills’ – but still Sherman places herself in the role of the subject of her photography.
  • ‘She enmeshes herself in the very world being critically interrogated in her work. This is one of the key things that distinguishes her commentary as postmodernist against modernist critical-readings-from-above offered by feminist film criticism of roughly the same period.’
  • The work also feeds off our nostalgia for bygone eras.
  • Defines irony as: “a deliberate contradiction between the literal meaning of something and its intended meaning (which can be the opposite of the literal meaning). Irony can border on sarcasm –that is, when someone says “nice picture” when they really mean “terrible picture.””

The Frame

Definition of the term ‘frame’:

‘To frame something then, on the literal level, is to give it a physical presence of some kind. Framing in this sense refers to the material presentation or representation of an object or image, and to the actual boundaries that function not only to enclose and contain the object but also to reveal it to us in a certain way.’

We frame the image with out own culture and experiences.

Uses the original Grant Wood American Gothic and an appropriation by Gordon Parks (1942) image

The original image by Grant Wood, 1930 Image source-
Gordon Parks, 1942 Image source:

These are not the original images – but digital replicas.  The replica gives no information about he size of the original, and colours will almost certainly not be reproduced accurately.  The images will pixelate on enlarging – unlike the original where close examination is possible.  When the two images are juxtaposed (as in the Cloud article) the viewer will surmise that there is a link.  In isolation, the appropriated image will only be seen in reference to the source image, if the viewer has knowledge of the original image.

  • Other appropriations of American Gothic shown

Cloud gives the following set of questions to help one consider the framing of images.

Questions that may prove useful when considering contextual issues such as framing include:

1. What is the connection between the medium used to produce the visual object and the question of framing? How does medium influence how the visual object is viewed and where it is (able to be) placed?
2. Does the setting in which an object is displayed change the potential viewers? How?
3. In what way does the framing of a visual object influence the viewer’s thinking about the age of the object? It’s value?
4. In what way does the framing of a visual object influence the viewer’s thinking about the identity of the producer of the object? Be specific and give as many aspects of identity as seem relevant.
5. Does the framing of the object in question help you to think about what may have prompted the artist to create the visual objects in question?
6. Using the framing of the object as a starting point, compose a brief narrative (3-5 sentences) for the object. Explain what you understand from examining each image, particularly what you imagine the artist intended to convey by constructing the object.
7. Try to imagine multiple and distinctive physical framings/settings for a given object.
8. List one aspect of the image or object that you “see” differently as a result of using frame as an element of analysis.
9. After considering the significance of framing to this image or object, indicate at least one question you have about the object that you would like to explore further.

(The reference links given on this page are not working.)

The Gaze

The Cloud article revisits the Berger theory of the male gaze

  • female nudes depicted full frontal – as the protagonist (the viewing male) is in charge of this sexual object – the nudes are often within ‘touching distance’ – are owned by the male viewers/the artist.
  • This is a Western invention – from the Renaissance
  • (in other cultures, women are more likely to be depicted as equals – though this is often not the social reality)
  • ads, even when pitched at women, are framed in a way that women viewers will see themselves as a man would see them.  (cites Messaris, Paul (1997): Visual Persuasion: The Role of Images in Advertising. London: Sage)
  • Iterates the viewer/veiwee perspective of the gaze

Types of gaze

Classifies the gaze as:

  • the spectator’s gaze: the gaze of the viewer at an image of a person (or animal, or object) in the text; You, looking at the painting
  • the direct [or extra-diegetic] address to the viewer: the gaze of a person (or quasi-human being) depicted in the text looking ‘out of the frame’ as if at the viewer, with associated gestures and postures (in some genres, direct address is studiously avoided); figures in the painting who look out at you,
  • the averted gaze – a depicted person’s noticeable avoidance of the gaze of another, or of the camera lens or artist (and thus of the viewer) – this may involve looking up, looking down or looking away (Dyer 1982);
  • the gaze of an audience within the text – certain kinds of popular televisual texts (such as game shows) often include shots of an audience watching those performing in the ‘text within a text’; or figures in the painting who look at objects or stare off into space or have their eyes closed.
  • the gaze of one depicted person at another ( or intra-diegetic gaze) within the world of the image (typically depicted in filmic and televisual media by a subjective ‘point-of-view shot’); or figures in the painting who look at one another, and the look of the camera – the way that the camera itself appears to look at the people (or animals or objects) depicted; less metaphorically, the gaze of the film-maker or photographer.
  • the gaze of a bystander – outside the world of the text ( image), the gaze of another individual in the viewer’s social world catching the latter in the act of viewing – this can be highly charged, e.g. where the text is erotic (Willemen 1992); the other people in the gallery, who may be looking at you or at the painting.
  • There are imaginary observers, too: the artist, who was once looking at this painting, the models for the figures in the painting, who may once have seen themselves there, and all the other people who have seen the painting – the buyers, the museum officials, and so forth. And finally, there are also people who have never seen the painting: they may know it only from reproductions… or from descriptions.”
  • the editorial gaze – ‘the whole institutional process by which some portion of the artist’s or photographer’s gaze is chosen for use and emphasis’ (Lutz & Collins 1994, 368).
  • (similar to those cited by Chandler).

Elkins, James (1996): The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing. New York: Simon & Schuster

Facial expressions

These can also be categorised – cites the categorisation of female expressions on the covers of British women’s magazines as 4 types:

  • Chocolate Box: half or full-smile, lips together or slightly parted, teeth barely visible, full or three-quarter face to camera. Projected mood: blandly pleasing, warm bath warmth, where uniformity of features in their smooth perfection is devoid of uniqueness or of individuality.
  • Invitational: emphasis on the eyes, mouth shut or with only a hint of a smile, head to one side or looking back to camera. Projected mood: suggestive of mischief or mystery, the hint of contact potential rather than sexual promise, the cover equivalent of advertising’s soft sell.
  • Super-smiler: full face, wide open toothy smile, head thrust forward or chin thrown back, hair often wind-blown. Projected mood: aggressive, ‘look-at-me’ demanding, the hard sell, ‘big come-on’ approach.
  • Romantic or Sexual: a fourth and more general classification devised to include male and female ‘two-somes’; or the dreamy, heavy-lidded, unsmiling big-heads, or the overtly sensual or sexual. Projected moods: possible ‘available’ and definitely ‘available’. Ferguson, Marjorie (1980):

‘The Woman’s Magazine Cover Photograph’. In Harry Christian (Ed.): The Sociology of Journalism and the Press (Sociological Review Monograph 29). Keele: University of Keele, pp. 219-38

Terry Millum had a different, more expanded set of expressions, by analysing women’s images in magazine ads.

  • Soft/introverted: eyes often shut or half-closed, the mouth slightly open/pouting, rarely smiling; an inward-looking trance-like reverie, removed from earthly things.
  • Cool/level: indifferent, self-sufficient, arrogant, slightly insolent, haughty, aloof, confident, reserved; wide eyes, full lips straight or slightly parted, and obtrusive hair, often blonde. The eyes usually look the reader in the eye, as perhaps the woman regards herself in the mirror.
  • Seductive: similar to the cool/level look in many respects – the eyes are less wide, perhaps shaded, the expression is less reserved but still self-sufficient and confident; milder versions may include a slight smile.
  • Narcissistic: similarities to the cool/level and soft/introverted looks, rather closer to the latter: a satisfied smile, closed or half-closed eyes, self-enclosed, oblivious, content – ‘activity directed inward’.
  • Carefree: nymphlike, active, healthy, gay, vibrant, outdoor girl; long unrestrained outward-flowing hair, more outward-going than the above, often smiling or grinning.
  • Kittenlike: coy, naïve (perhaps in a deliberate, studied way), a friendlier and more girlish version of the cool/level look
  • Maternal: motherly, matronly, mature, wise, experienced and kind, carrying a sort of authority; shorter hair, slight smile and gentle eyes – mouth may sometimes be stern, but eyes twinkle.
  • Practical: concentrating, engaged on the business in hand, mouth closed, eyes object-directed, sometimes a slight frown; hair often short or tied back.
  • Comic: deliberately ridiculous, exaggerated, acting the fool, pulling faces for the benefit of a real or imaginary audience, sometimes close to a sort of archness.
  • Catalogue: a neutral look as of a dummy, artificial, waxlike; features may be in any position, but most likely to be with eyes open wide and a smile, but the look remains vacant and empty; personality has been removed. (Millum 1975, 97-8)

Millum, Trevor (1975): Images of Woman: Advertising in Women’s Magazines. London: Chatto & Windus

Millum also considers that men depicted in ads have similar expressions to those cited above.

Interesting aside on figures depicted in ads for luxury products as opposed to those targeting the hoi polloi.

Paul Messaris notes differences in facial expression between models in high-fashion magazines and those in ads for less expensive products:

  • Models who display moderately priced clothing usually smile and strike ingratiating poses. But high-fashion models are generally unsmiling and sometimes openly contemptuous. So pronounced is this contrast that it is tempting to formulate it in a simple rule: the higher the fashion, the more sullen the expression. The supercilious expressions on the models’ faces serve to increase the desirability of what they’re selling by evoking status anxiety in the viewer. (Messaris 1997, 38-40) Messaris, Paul (1997): Visual Persuasion: The Role of Images in Advertising. London: Sage
  • My thoughts – One might conjecture from this that the models are placing themselves ‘above the viewer’ – i.e. ‘only if you’re rich enough are you good enough for me to consider any contact with you’


Two images depicted – one a poster for army recruitment, where a gorilla/neanderthal type figure clutches the semi-clad, supine figure of a young woman, and a second image of a muscley black basketballer, mouth open in a shout, face contorted with an agressive expression, with his arm around a standing model who is smiling at the viewer – cover of Vogue’s ‘shape’ issue.

Image from Cloud site
Image from Cloud site

The Activity is to analyse the images by gaze,

  1.  both males have aggressive, open mouthed (showing lots of teeth) gazes.
  2. Both males are black; both females white.
  3. The female in the enlist poster has her hand over her face – implying either a swoon or that it’s too awful to look at her abductor.
  4. The Vogue female is smiling invitingly at the viewer – a relaxed, inviting, in control visage and pose
  5. Both imply male possessiveness – both males are using the females in their possession as symbols of their aggressive power.
  6. While the second female is confident, the implication is that she has ‘got her man’ – has become his possession.
  7. The purpose of the first image is to frighten and anger Americans into enlisting so that the barbarian hoards depicted by the male in the poster won’t appropriate their women (the white woman in the ape’s arms).  The woman becomes a symbol of America and possible invasion.

A second activity discusses how to use American Gothic and several appropriated images posing the following discussion questions.

  • What were some of the different narratives initially constructed by members of the class for the three images titled American Gothic? How did the notion of gaze intersect with these different narratives?
  • What elements of the viewer’s own identity seemed critical to the emergence of different viewer gazes? Some elements to consider would include age, race, class, academic interest, ethnic or national background, cultural, religious, or geographic contexts of lived experience etc.
  • How might gaze influence or depend upon what the viewer “saw” or “did not see” (literally or metaphorically) within a given image. Can you give a concrete example using the three American Gothic images as they were interpreted by members of the group?
  • How many different types of gaze can you identify in these images?

This topic concludes by posing the following questions about gaze:

Questions about the gaze

1. How might gaze influence or depend upon what a viewer “sees” or “does not see” (literally or metaphorically) within a given image. Provide a concrete example using a selected image or images.
2. How many different types of gaze can you identify in selected visual images? Consult (link to this page above) to review the conceptual framework for gaze.
3. Using the image provided, discuss how the notion of gaze intersects with other principles of visual analysis such as form, content, and context. How might different viewer narratives and interpretations of a visual image intersect with the notion of gaze?
4. In considering the image provided, identify how elements of your identity as a viewer would shape your gaze? The gaze you experienced in return as a viewer? Some elements to consider would include your age, race, class, academic interests and training, ethnic or national background, cultural, religious, or geographic contexts of lived experience etc.
5. After completing question four, give an example of viewer interaction and gaze that would be different from your own. What elements of viewer identity would change?
6. List one aspect of the image that you “see” differently as a result of using gaze as an element of analysis. Compare your response to that of a classmate.

Gender Images

Berger’s argument is that (at least in the traditional European west) women and men have different social presence.  Woman’s relies on her physical attributes – sound of voice, clothing, gestures, ‘beauty’, age etc.  Man’s relies on the power which he exercises on others – which may be fabricated in Berger’s opinion.

Grenville (Cloud) agrees –

Rehashes Berger on the nude –

‘The meaning that we acquire from an image is always different to what the artist intended.’ Grenville (Cloud)

  • Berger distinguishes nakedness from nudity – naked – one’s self, nudity – a disguise (the person as an object).  Nudity may be a form of dress.
  • European nudes are painted for the gratification and pleasure of men – the women in the purpose are posed to please the males looking at it – hence the gaze of the women in the painting is not on her surroundings but focused in a way to gratify those looking (this is directed by the artist).
  • Premise is that women are (may be) reduced to sexual objects, dressing for men, acting to be pleasing to them – their image reflected to the self through a perception of the male gaze.
  • This stereotype magnified through the media and advertising.
  • Woman’s persona is based on how she appears to others (males)

Images of historic nude women – seated or supine, suggestive (or coyly demure)

Images of men – (Holbein painting of an explorer and churchman with artefacts – globe, lute, (elongated skull) etc., modern day ad (for exclusive club) of young successful males in suits – inference, – they have made it in the world of business etc.

Looking Sideways

Ad for men’s makeup – nude female/topless jean clad long haired male with pendant and bracelet matching his belt (studded?).  Both weat heavy eye makeup and nail polish.  Background is Egyptian hieroglyphics.  Ad is for ANDROGYNY: COSMETICS FOR MEN.  Image Source

Grenfell considers that the woman looks like she is owned by the man (arguable – in all 3 images she is holding him possessively.  In all three she appears in charge.  He looks out at the viewer – is possessed by the female (Grenfell believes he is the possessor).  Woman’s gave is into space – not at man or the viewer – not confronting the viewer but clearly in possession of her male.  The man’s hands lie limply at his sides (first image), left arm behind, limp right (second image), arm across woman’s breasts and on her hip (third image – where the woman is in front of the man).  In this image he looks down at her face, in the others, he looks out at the viewer with a ‘pouty’ look.

I do not consider this ad to show the male as masculine!

Grenfell believes that, in this ad, makeup becomes a symbol of power (i.e. is on a powerful man) – I’m not at all convinced.

Women in art

(PDF download)

There are more well-known male artists than female artists (even today), but particularly in history.  Before 20th century there were only a very few who were recognised.

Women artists

Frida Kahlo – Mexican surrealist – who depicted herself in surrealist settings – which depicted her perception of her life – e.g. Henry Ford Hospital 1932 – depicting abortions, and miscarriages, paintings of e.g. uterus, pelvie – in sky, background of industrial buildings, Kahlo naked on bed with bloody sheet beneath.  Source:

These items are all symbols for her pain – physical and mental, and the way her body was butchered by the various processes and operations she underwent.

Goddess Statues

Three non-Western images of goddess statues – all have bare breasts and wide pelvises, symbolising creation and birth.  Two have arms joined over heads to symbolise the circle of life and death (and may be rebirth), one of these has a spiral/labyrinth – which have many meanings – including the walk of life towards enlightenment and eventual death and rebirth.

Pablo Picasso – and women

Image Weeping Woman 1938, NGVI

Depicts a weeping woman (cubist) showing the pain and anguish of war – painted soon after Guernica (which I saw on show at NY Guggenheim in 1965).  This is depicted by the tears – in purple, and the handkerchief – also the darker purple/blue background and the green/blue face – not flesh tones, but a bilious chartreuse green.  The cubist view, with both eyes shown in a profile fragments the image.  Also stark black outlines and hair – high contrast.

Purple/green are commonly associated with women’s equality today, but Picasso is known to have been a misogynist.

Gaugin Aha oe feli (What! Are you jealous?) 1892

Two native women

one seated, one lying, head towards painter, legs away.  Lying figure face in repose.  Seated figure face looks angry (profile).

Both lie on pink rock with diagonal edge on top left of painting, behind which is green foliage, blue water, black, earth and green tonings.  Shadows of figures are darker blue/purple.  Seater figure has knee on a piece of fabric – orange ground with pale purple/blue pattern.

The ethnic nature of the figues is shown by their yellowish/tanned skin tones, black hair, slanted eyes and large noses as well as chin and brow shape.  Both women are nude.  Strong light from right/back – sunlight.

The diagonal gives the figures a sense of being high up – above the surrounding landscape.

Edvard Munch – Femme Fatale

Vampyre 1893

Image source:

Madonna 1894-1895 Source:

These two images give the two commonest stereotypical images of woman – as either the pure virgin or the femme fatale with either a massive gulf or a whisker separating the one from the other.

Munch was an impoverished artist, brought up by a widower father, always in the shadow of the supernatural (the works of EA Poe and norse mythology) and religious dogma.  His view of women ranged from debauchery to respect.

The two works shown depict nude women – one in the embrace of a male from whom she is drinking the life blood, the other brazenly showing herself.  The former is a symbol of the nurturing woman, who is, none the less, sucking the masculinity (if not the life) from a man.  In the second, the virgin madonna shows that she is still a female object – ready to be deflowered by a passing male.


She who was the helmet-maker’s beautiful wife, 1880-85.


This beautiful bronze sculpture shows women in age – a woman who has given a life of hard work to support her family.  No longer beautiful, she is exhausted by the strictures of old age.  Rodin had a wonderful skill in making his viewers see the anguish in people – the woman site on a rock, or stump, her head bowed, left arm supporting her sagging body, right arm bent behind her with fingers stretched in anguish or pain.

Women in advertising

Two roles for women in ads – housewife/homemaker & sex object.  (i.e. the woman is never herself)

  • ads may try to make housework sexy – e.g. the old Madge ad for Palmolive dishwashing liquid ‘You’re soaking in it!’

Images of Botticelli Venus and Artemisia Gentilsechi Judith Beheading Holofemes 1620 (Artemisia is one of the very few female artists whose name come through history).  In contrast to the Botticelli – “here I am for your pleasure.  My only wish is to serve you”, Artemisia makes her women action figures, with real lives aside from the men they interact with (and, in this case, kill).

An interesting aside is that strong female rulers in history have been depicted in one of the two roles – despite the reality of their positions of power.  Hence, Elizabeth I – the virgin queen, Cleopatra of Egypt (seductress of Mark Anthony and other men who came to pay homage).  The inference is that history, usually written by men and told from a male perspective, cannot assign a place to any woman other than by placing her in the traditional stereotypes.  (also e.g. Boadicea (virgin general), Salome (shrew seducer))

Cloud lists artists for futher research

Some Artists you may wish to research…
Sally Smart Elizabeth Gower
Lesley Dumbrel Barbara Hanrahan
Rosslynd Piggot Frida Kahlo
Leonora Carrington Remedious Varo
Anne Wallace Tracey Moffatt

See my research on Annie Leibovitz.

Male artists of the 19th-20th century who depict women

Norman Lindsay Paul Gauguin
Aubrey Beardsly Gustav Klimt

Sex and Power

This is an extract from a text for which no reference is given, and discusses John Berger’s book and videos.

Berger postulates

  • the art nude is equivalent to the ‘soft porn’ nude and has the same purpose (male titillation)
  • Cites various images of The Judgement of Paris – three goddesses require Paris to say which of them is most beautiful – placing him in an impossible position – the images mainly show full frontal woman, being gazed upon by Paris – though that of Watteau shows Aphrodite in rear view
    • inference – even godesses are sex objects whose worth lies in how beautiful they are
  • Used to explore the relationship between sexuality and power – Aphrodite’s power is in her sexuality – which conquers all.
  • There is a move away from this submissive nude image by some in the 19th to 21st century (not least because there are more female artists in their own right).  e.g. Manet’s Dejeuner sur L’herbe and Olympia, and Rodin’s Caryatid Fallen under her Stone 1880 and She who was the helmet-maker’s beautiful wife Image source
  • The Rodin images show woman as bowed from her duties – never able to give up in her role as worker/housekeeper/sex object until age and circumstances render her alluring no more.  Image source:
  • The above image is a parody of the paintings of The judgement of Paris – with action man/Ken dolls and Barby dolle (one of whom is a Marylin Monroe look-a-like). Shows all the figures are really stereotypes – including the males.

The Gaze (Powerpoint)

Images of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Bougereau’s 19th Centure The Birth of Venus (1879) and an appropriation of the image for a Renaissance Hotel advertisement.

Image Source:

Supine nudes – by Coubet, Danee, Valledon, Manet, Goya

Annie Leibovitz women – including John Lennon and Yoko, – all are for magazines or fashion shoots.

Is the object of the available woman still relevant in contemporary art?

  • Women are still viewed this way to sell products
  • Many men still see women as objects to be owned (see the huge number of violent acts against women who have rebelled against their owned status in relationships with man)
  • Women still, in many cases, dress to please men (though, in many cases, women may also choose their clothes for themselves and their female friends).
  • Girls are still given Barbie dolls as images of the ideal woman.


  • Women now depict themselves and other women with a touch of salt – with irony – when depicting in overt or covertly sexual ways.
  • The body may be depicted as beautiful in it’s own right – I cite here Annie Leibovitz discussing portraits she made of Arnold Schwartzenegger – where the actor’s white jodphurs exactly mirrored the white of his horse’s thigh, and her images of nudes – e.g. Demi Moore pregnant, John Lennon and Yoko and the cut off sections of nudes for a Pirelli Tyre Callendar.  Image Source:
  • Women are often depicted as a generic – the face is less important than the whole package – body, hair, face – all packaged up in nudity to be purchased (or stolen) by the male.
  • Comparison of Leibovitz Yoko One and John Lennon with Lewis Morley Christine Keeler, and Peter Paul Rubens – the little fur : Helen Fourmont, wife of the artist. 
    • the Leibovitz shows two figures wrapped in each other – despite his nakedness, there is no sense of sexual tension
    • The Morley is highly charged with sex – the triangular chair back spreads the legs of Keeler into a come hither pose, even though her genitals are not on show.
    • The Rubens shows a woman confident – has posed many times for her husband – breasts are on show, Rubens wife depicted as a much admired possession – some double entente in the title

Interview with Del  Kathryn Barton (could not access the one on Cloud – no sound)

Discusses landscape work Wilderness

  • dissolves the boundaries of the body and the landscape.
  • There is truth in paradox – we are both cut off and connected to nature.
  • humans are connected and disconnected with nature/landscape – hence the figures in the painting is connected with it – via

Del Kathryn Barton uses drawing as therapy when anxious (comes from being stressed as a child) – less urgent now she is a mother herself.

  • desires to work every day – is most at peace when alone in the studio.
  • repetitious marks are therapeutic – calming when tired or anxious
  • Discussed how her practice shifted when she became a mother.
  • in 20s monochrome, self-absorbed nudes (photography) – this blossomed into painting with the first child – lots of colour
  • Discussed the efficiency needed for the artist who is also a mother – found this useful  – focusing.
  • shown painting small dots
  • is focused on the experience of mother love – contact with the other in relationships.
  • Shown painting a meticulous work of dots.
  • Life is about feeling – Del Kathryn Barton is very effected by places and people
  • With age feels safer and calmer
  • Her desire (which she has realised) is to make art every day.

The artist discusses her prize-winning portrait after winning the Archibald Prize in 2013 for the second time.

Image Source:

  • usually works with female forms – from a young age has used drawing as a way of exploring her own femaleness
  • The Weaving portrait is outside her normal practice – not her first male portrait – she does not usually show portraiture in her commercial shows
  • Discussed the labour intensity of Del Kathryn Barton’s work
  • How do you choose your subjects?  Del hadn’t met Hugo Weaving, but thinks his face is passionate, she is also most passionate about
  • has always liked Weaving’s acting on film and stage, and was interested in how he selected his roles.
  • The portrait is true to real life – what is the symbolism of the objects –
  • Del Barton says this is about power – psychological references – talks to the subject to tease out important things to them – to incorporate a personalised symbology in the image.  Not concerned it the audience doesn’t decode this effectively.  Not just about the content and meaning.
  • On drawing – ‘The act of drawing makes you present in your physicality’ Del Barton elaborates –
    • drawing is the most disciplined of the art practice – both mentally and physically – must have full energy to draw.  The drawing is what I love most but also the most draining.  I use a permanent line which is risky, and intoxicating.
    • Throsby alludes to Michael Leunig – ‘putting the pencil on the paper and watching where it goes’ rather than being absolutely in control.  Barton ‘ There’s a flow.  It is just about discipline.’
    • Became obsessed with drawing as ‘an inner sanctum’ when drawing from an early age.
  • The intricate work comes more easily when the artist is tired.
  • The dots – aboriginal influence? – no – the influence was more from Chrisifili? – Yayo Kusamo – areas of dense patterning – it has a profound point of engagement – obsessive mark making.
  • The drawings may be stripped back – without the patterning – but in the paintings there is a compulsion to fill the whole picture.
  • Colour – we grew up on a farm, mother a Steiner teacher so had exposure to some materials.
  • Art is an undeniably hard road. DKB
  • In 20s was exhibiting drawings, life expanded when first child (Kel) was born – then started painting
  • Prior to this tortured self-portraits
  • After – series of children portraits (e.g. the first Archibald winner)
  • Did the style also change?  Painting is tough.  Years and years are needed to see results – and to crystalise content.  For many years has been trying to take the line onto the canvass – that was realised in the children works.
  • DKB was a passionate rock climber until becoming a mother – loves to push herself, despite her anxiety – made tangible all the things she was thinking about and working through – breaking through limitations of mental and physical strength, and being embedded in landscape.
  • New book – illustrations for The Nightingale and the Rose Oscar Wilde Del KB
  • Comment by Throsby that there are only a very few women who have won the Archibald prize in comparison with men.

Del Kathryn Barton discusses beauty and her consideration of whether she herself is beautiful in this video

  • Her work is surreal – exploring her sexuality and dreams – may be very explicit sexually
  • Explores heraphridity –
  • uses watercolour for eyes – luminoscity – also acrylic for other parts of the image.

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