Dec 4, 2009

Women in Art and Poetry



I’m not ready to abandon that nineteenth century American gallery after last week’s attempts to relate the work there to Hawthorne. I’m not sure why the idea took hold so firmly, except for my feeling that here were two contemporaries presenting rather similar portraits of similar parts of the U.S. I think I felt that each might have validated the other, and therefore I was illuminated (nothing more dangerous than an illuminated banjo—it’ll never shut up—it’s like some Jurassic Park cricket.).

So before leaving that gallery indefinitely, I want to look at a few portraits of women of that era, painted by men of that era, plus some modern poems that seem related. Then, tomorrow or very soon, I want to look at some contemporary American women poets on the subject of women. (Does the fact that they’re contemporary fatally skew the comparison?).

“Piazza DiSpagna, Early Morning” by Richard Wilbur (this is the cleanest online version I found. I’m sorry about the small print; the poem is at the bottom left of the page).

http://members.fortunecity.co.uk/kagaya_rinoa/aa/Piazza.di.Spagna,.Early.Morning.htm

“I Knew a Woman” by Theodore Roethke http://gawow.com/roethke/poems/122.html

“Nude Descending a Staircase” by X.J. Kennedy, in response to the Duchamps painting by the same title

http://www.poemtree.com/poems/NudeDescendingAStaircase.htm

By the way, I've deliberately opted against an e.e. cummings poem--he fits in all too easily. For whatever reason, these three poems popped into my mind concerning this subject--I rarely think about the Kennedy poem, but there it was, more for the title and its comparison to the Wilbur than for any other reason. What Duchamps was up to in his painting is a whole other bucket of worms, isn't it?

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7 comments:

altadenahiker said...

A bit off topic, but one of the reasons so many of the great bequested estates, as well as many American museums, have a similar collection of 19th century artwork is because the art Dealer Joseph Duveen determined taste and value by doing almost all the buying and selling in the early part of the last century.

Paula said...

I have an easier time starting there, AH.
I can appreciate a painting of a beautiful naked woman or poetry about one but mostly I'm thinking the male artist has been poleaxed and is trying to convince us he has a higher calling when it comes to objectifying said woman. Not that he's a voyeur, he's just letting us know how most men spend their thinking time, it's just science. Or did I miss the point?

PS I deeply admire your knowledge and choice of poetry. When I need one for a post I mostly google some words and hope for the best.

BANJO52 said...

I'd hardly call this off topic. And it's doubly interesting to me because I know so little about this kind of thing.

(When I do my occasional honesty checks on myself, I wonder if my quasi-New Critic thing is an excuse for all that I don't know about historical context and so forth).

I've only recently come across a few items about the kinds of paint and other materials available to this or that painter back in this or that century. Or that business I brought up recently about Beethoven "versus" Bach and the harpsichord (about which you were very helpful!).

Or whether Michaelangelo's ceiling
has been touched up by "restoration" and if so, how many times, and is that a good thing?

From there it's a short hop to the Bible's different versions, translations and the political contexts in which its authors labored.

So the influence of one major, major art dealer raises fascinating questions--or simply gives answers. I hope to look into this guy, and as always, thank you much for the info and perspective. (Did I understand correctly that you're doing some work in a museum?).

By the way, given your hystercial Tiger Woods post a couple of days ago, maybe you or someone should do a contextual study of our superstars and their fan(atics)? I suppose it's been done.

BANJO52 said...

Paula, I want to get to into the issues you raise. If I haven't posted on it by middle of next week, I hope you'll remind me. As I was quickly re-reading the three poems for today, I noticed how little attention was centered on anything other than the women's physical beauty. I'm not a newcomer to the issue of objectification, but that caught me by surprise, especially in "Piazza di Spagna," which I do think celebrates the girl, but perhaps has no interest in anything but her physical self--unless maybe the speaker's admiration for her having no inkling of how spellbinding he finds her ("perfectly ignorant of it").

More later, if I can get my poleaxed self to locate the computer and remember how to type. :) "poleaxed"!! Great.

Brenda's Arizona said...

OK, I had to look up poleaxed in the Urban Dictionary. I think I got it. AH's comment is certainly a piece of knowledge I never would have thought of. Duveen drove the market?

altadenahiker said...

Yes, and I owe this knowledge to Miss Havisham (on my blogroll) who steered me to the Behrman book "Duveen, the story of the most spectacular art dealer of all time." The book is very amusing and highly informative, and suddenly it made so much sense why all these works in all these museums looked similar. Among others, Frick, Hearst, Mellon, Rockefeller, and Hungtington bought "Duveens" rather than artists.

Paula said...

I think I've been mispelling pollaxe all these years...

AH, it's amazing the things we don't know about that drive our everyday reality. My favorite "Unseen Duveen" is Robert Moses. The man changed the urban landscape for virtually the entire planet.

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