Reading Response: Women And Art Nouveau Iconography Article Review

Published: 2021-06-18 05:20:02
essay essay

Category: Literature, Time, Art, Women, Artists, Role, Art Nouveau, Iconography

Type of paper: Essay

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Article Summary
In his article, ‘The Role of Woman in the Iconography of Art Nouveau’, which was published in the Art Journal in the winter of 1971-1972, Jan Thompson, examines how women were depicted in different forms of art during the late years of the 19th and early years of the 20th century. Thompson begins by asserting that Art Nouveau, as the art of that period is best known, was primarily concerned with depicting women and not men. These women however were mainly depicted, not as they really were, but ‘helpless’, ‘fragile’ and ‘desirable’ (Thompson, 158-159). The author suggests that as women started to acquire a more public role, artists insisted on depicting them as objects, parts of the household that essentially belonged to a man (Thompson, 159).
Thompson examines the different types of women created in Art Nouveau iconography for advertisements, as well as paintings and pieces of sculpture. He argues that the style centered on women and what was considered female. The author considers the Pre-Raphaelites as the first to be so preoccupied with the female (Thompson, 160). But unlike the Pre-Raphaelites, Art Nouveau artists focused on the erotic –often sinful- qualities of women (Thompson, 164). A hair fetish emerged, in which the hair of women was given erotic dimensions (Thompson, 165). At the same time, prominent artists of the period like Klimt and Munch focused on erotic representations of women, presenting them at the same time as good and evil, virgins and temptresses.
This eroticism in art, served a very specific purpose according to Thompson: it aimed at maintaining a traditional role for women, when they had started to find their individual worth and fight for their rights. It was an attempt to keep them chained, even in artistic form, when in reality they were already finding their voice.
Thompson, Jan. The Role of Woman in the Iconography of Art Nouveau. Art Journal, 31.Winter 1971-1972, pp. 158-167

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