Images of Women in Modern Art

Images of Women
Images of Women

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Images of Women

From the middle of the 19th century to the 20th century, women were among the subjects depicted most frequently by modern, experimental artists such as Picasso and Matisse. Choose at least 2 innovative works that represent women in any media, dating from 1900-1950s, to analyze in terms of form, content, and the artist’s attitude/approach to his or her chosen subject. Be sure to include analysis of your own reaction to and interpretation of the images you chose, and illustrations of the works discussed. Analyze the use of colors, lines, medium, subjects, symbols, etc

Images of Women

Women during the 19th and 20th century (and even before these periods) were the subject of depiction by most experimental artist. Picasso who was amongst these artists did experiment with women as his subject of paintings a lot of times. The reason as to why the sudden thought to have women as painting subjects cannot be originally traced but can be found in the attitude that a certain painter had towards a particular painting. This essay therefore is going to look at two works that show how women influenced art during this period and why the chosen painters used them as subjects in their paintings.

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Picasso’s famous painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (whose subject matter was five women prostitutes and a brothel) caused much uproar from the public from the depiction it created. Picasso used it to contrast between femininity and sexuality on one hand and “African masks” on the other hand. The depiction created by the picture was so shocking even to Picasso’s friends who also happened to be avant-garde artist.

Picasso always regarded African art to represent exorcism and masculinity. Therefore the painting can be regarded as a mix of stylistic and sexual extremism. The painting reflected the Picasso’s bohemia way of life and his association with person of convoluted sexuality.

Augustus Leopold’s Past and Present (1) is another piece of work that used women as its core subject. The painting was painted in the Victorian age which was obsessed with sexual promiscuity and virginity (Betsy, 1989). The painting illustrates the image of a fallen female. During the Victorian period, women were considered susceptible to social evils and they had to be protected at the comfort of their homes to avoid the danger of the world. Women were considered to be open to sexual seduction and the repercussions were unforgivable.

The paintings of fallen women were therefore celebrated because they had in them moral lessons. The painting by Augustus depicts this notion because it shows a husband who has found out the promiscuity of her wife. It has got an oil painting on the wall which symbolises expulsion from paradise and on the floor there is an apple which symbolises the unforgivable sin.

The woman has fallen on the floor asking to be forgiven and her arms are stretched out pointing at the door and the image is reflected by a mirror behind her husband and shows that she will be cast out by her husband. The picture has also got a box house made by her children but it is collapsing which shows that the home is collapsing because of the mother’s actions. The picture shoes Augustus detest of adultery and how he thinks it affects the family; furthermore it shows his feelings of what should happen to a wayward woman.

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Use of lines, colour and shapes on Images of Women

Both painters have used lines in their drawing to express individuality and feelings. They have been able to capture a three dimensional object and represented it into a two dimensional surface and therefore captured art’s important factors. The use of three dimensional objects by both artists has helped the viewer able to look at the objects properly and therefore get a better understanding of the painting.

Both artists are expressing some form of evil in their paintings; the colours that they used bring out this theme clearly. They have both used dull colours which symbolises the gravity of the predicament that society faces as a result of the messages contained in the paintings.


Betsy, C.R. (1989). Victorian Studies. Indiana University press. Vol. 32, No. 3

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