Lately I have been fascinated (anew and again) by the subtext of self portraits. Quite a few refer directly to traditional female roles. I read this both as sincere (as in the case of Modersohn-Becker’s self-portrait) and strategic (Vigee-Lebrun’s “see what a good artist I am, but patronize me anyway because I’m a good mother”).*
Others emphasized their authority as fine artists. This included body language and a lot of props. This would seem less surprising if not for the sheer number of female artists’ self-portraits that excluded any hint of artistic activity.
This trio always begs the question: would anyone have really worn such clothes for art-making? Really? A huge ruff, a voluminous satin skirt, or a white dress? These choices contradict the main assertion of the paintings, and therefore seem to suggest inner schism or conflict.
A project so heavy on appropriation feels like it should be easier than this. In truth, deciding how to group and curate these appropriations takes a long time to think through.
Even this gentle sort of caricature doesn’t come easily to me.
* Yes, these are harsh oversimplifications. Please keep in mind that this project is about art history as it affects or is understood by present-day individuals. This has elements of and respect for academic research, but it is something different.