Dr. Véronique Olivier
The research I have conducted for my French Major Senior Thesis is a culmination of my passion for and studies of both French language and culture and the history and practice of Visual Arts. I have examined, across the history of art, the representation of women, and concluded that until the 20th century, these representations have been tools employed by the makers of history and those at the top of the patriarchal system, used to control women’s images and thus women themselves. I survey these representations, which are largely created by men—until the 20th century. I discuss pre-historical portrayals in the form of fertility figurines, the representation of Marie Antoinette, (Queen at Versailles during the late 18th century), by portraitist Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun, and depictions of women in impressionism, a male-centric modernist art movement of the mid-19th century. The remainder of my research centers on female French artists and their work (e.g., Louise Bourgeois, Annette Messager, Agnès Varda), emerging in the 20th century, grounded in writings by French theorist Hélène Cixous, who calls for “l’écriture feminine,” or female writing—women writing their own stories. I argue that, finally, proper representations of women are created due to the fact that women themselves are creating them. The common denominator in these women’s work is the authenticity of communicating their own experience. In conclusion, my intention is to show how and why the art historical canon is flawed, to introduce audiences to women creating their own representations, and to examine our cultural landscape regarding gender representation and how women may identify and create as a result.
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