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Saluting Womanhood… #ChooseToChallenge

“She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future” – Proverbs 31:25

It’s that special time of the year again – 8th of March! As International Women’s Day (IWD) kicks off globally to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, all of us are gearing to pay tribute to the spirit and elegance of womanhood in our very own personal ways.

Every year IWD serves as a reminder about how women, not just in the world of art, but in all walks of life, are balancing the scales between work and home. With so many pressures on the work as well as home fronts and so much to fit into a limited time frame, this day is a recognition of how well women have stood their ground in this male-dominated world.

Although this year has been no less lacking in recognizing the efforts of “womankind” to overcome the biggest hurdle in their path – gender inequality, what makes it extra special is the theme this time – #ChooseToChallenge. What this means is that in a world predominantly populated by men, women can choose to defy the stereotypes, pledge to challenge the status quo and call out for gender equality.

Women are the largest reservoir of talent in the world and specifically in the art world, IWD is a day not just to acknowledge this talent, but also recognize women who are making a global impact. It is about identifying, nurturing and celebrating talent.

Today’s post is about my artwork titled “Saluting Womanhood… #ChooseTo Challenge” which is my tribute to women’s achievements worldwide, as well as my pledge towards gender equality across the globe. It celebrates the tremendous efforts of women all over the world towards creating a gender equal future, especially in the present day COVID-19 ridden world.

My tribute to Womanhood (Soundtrack Credits – She’s Always A Woman by Billy Joel)
The artwork: Saluting Womanhood… #ChooseToChallenge

Through this artwork, I wish to send out the message that every woman has the right to define her life by the choices she makes, be it the clothes she wears or the stereotypes she breaks. So why not choose a gender equal world? She can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality and be part of the collective endeavor towards creating an inclusive world.    

I have used a combination of watercolors and acrylics to integrate the classic symbol of the female gender (), the number “8” which represents the day IWD is celebrated and the hand gesture that is symbolic of #ChooseToChallenge along with the silhouettes of a woman’s face in my artwork. The color palette mostly consists of warm tones like yellow, orange and red with a splash of the cooler blues and vibrant pinks for the faces.

I have rendered the female symbol, the number 8 and the hand gesture in black acrylic paint while the faces and the background of the artwork are done using watercolors. What’s special about this artwork is that the hand gesture is not painted on with a brush, but is the actual imprint of my hand. In a way, it asserts my pledge towards #ChooseToChallenge.

I believe that an equal world is an enabled world and in order to achieve this we all must choose to seek out and challenge gender stereotypes. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.

Hoping that my artwork will inspire others like me to #ChooseToChallenge something, be it the workload at the home front or their rightful place at work.  What would you choose to challenge?

Credits –

Soundtrack used for video – She’s Always A Woman by Billy Joel.

Female Muses through the Ages – Part 1

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“Without a muse, an artist is simply a madman shouting to the stars.” ~ Ross Baldwin.

For centuries, muses have been responsible for rekindling the creative spark in artists, inspiring them to paint and guiding them through their creative process. From mythical creatures to enchanting real life beauties, history has witnessed innumerable muses in the feminine form that have captured many an artist’s fancy. The muse has the ability to renew an artist’s passion for art, thereby helpinghim or her to create memorable masterpieces. It is the oxygen to the artistic soul without which it will breathe its last.

The word “muse” originates from Greek and Roman mythology, where it was used to describe goddesses presiding over artistic disciplines. But anything or anyone can serve as the artist’s source of inspiration. Even though many men have been known to provide inspiration, the female form continues to pose as a muse for most artists. From lovers to spouses to friends, inspiration can come in many moulds.

Looking back in history, Andrea del Sarto, an Italian painter born in 1486, was married to his muse, Lucrezia, whose features very closely resembled his ideal female figure at a time when most other painters were building their beautiful female images on the well-loved bodies of boys. Since then, artists of the likes of Rubens, Bonnard, Renoir, Charles Blackman and Brett Whiteley have painted their wives over and over again, but their wives were their subjects rather than their muses.

To commemorate Women’s Day and Women’s week, here’s the story of some of the most stunning female muses from history who have navigated artists towards becoming the architects of several great works of art. This post, which is first of a two part series, will cover the influential women who inspired art in the early part of the Modern Era.

Saskia van Uylenburgh (1612-1642)

Saskia van Uylenburgh was Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn’s wife and muse. From drawings of Saskia lying in bed to allegorical paintings, he managed to show his love for his wife by depicting these works in tender, loving manners.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Saskia van Uylenburgh as Flora, 1641

Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862)

Elizabeth Siddal, commonly known as Lizzie, was also an artist. Inspiring many Pre-Raphaelites, including Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais, Lizzie truly inspired her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In one of his most famous paintings Beata Beatrix, created after Lizzie died, Rossetti modeled the character Beatrice Portinari after Lizzie as a tribute.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Beata Beatrix, 1864-1870

Victorine Meurent (1844–1927)

A painter herself, she modeled for several paintings by Édouard Manet. Among these, Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) (1862–63) and Olympia feature a nude Victorine in a nonchalant manner, which was quite shocking for the time. His Olympia (1863) shows a nude white woman (recognizably Meurent) lying on a bed as a black servant brings her flowers. In Street Singer (1862), Meurent poses as a woman on the fringes of society, provocatively eating ripe cherries as she holds a guitar. This painting, which shows a hungry girl with dark shadows around her eyes, could represent later years of Meurent’s life when she fell into poverty, appealing in vain for funds from Manet’s widow. She also modeled for painters Edgar Degas and Alfred Stevens.

Amelie Gautreau – aka Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau (1859–1915)

Parisian socialite and renowned beauty Amelie Gautreau was the ‘Madame X’ in John Singer Sargent’s iconic 1884 portrait of that name. The painting sparked a scandal as Gautreau’s clothing was considered “flagrantly insufficient”. She was a striking beauty famous for her unnaturally pale look which was attributed to consumption small amounts of arsenic. But it was later confirmed that she dusted herself with lavender-tinted rice powder. It is believed that in the painting Madame X, Gautreau’s exposed ear is pink because she rouged her ears to avoid “giving away the natural tone of her un-powdered, naked skin”.

Madame X by John Singer Sargent

Camille Claudel (1864-1943)

Camille Claudel was an important artist in her own right, but her work was often overshadowed by her relationship with her mentor, Auguste Rodin. Rodin made several sculptures depicting Claudel, including Portrait of Camille with a Bonnet (1886).

Emilie Louise Flöge (1874-1952)

Emilie Louise Flöge was an Austrian fashion designer, and businesswoman, as well as a partner of Gustav KlimtShe is shown in his 1908 masterwork The Kiss,which portrays the couple as lovers ensconced in glimmering gold.

Klimt also depicted her in a 1902 painting titled Emilie Flöge. Flöge’s pointed features and flat virgin body are encountered often in Klimt’s pseudo-erotic paintings tantalizingly glimpsed through elaborate surface patterning.

Hers is the blank mask at the centre of his 1913 picture, The Virgin. As often with Klimt, the unconscious face is set at right angles to the neck, as if the model had been hanged. On her pedestal, swathed in fabric designed by the master, Flöge is a debased version of the muse as a fashionista.

Audrey Munson (1891–1996)

Known as ‘Miss Manhattan’ and the ‘Panama-Pacific girl,’ Munson was the most popular model of her day. ‘Discovered’ when she was 15 years old, Munson first posed for sculptor Isidore Konti and became Alexander Stirling Calder’s preferred model. In 1915 Munson provoked a crisis among the censors of the American film industry when she played an artist’s muse in Inspiration – becoming the first woman to appear fully nude in a (non-pornographic) motion picture.

The female muse is one of the most romanticized figures in art history and in the past, male artists have predominantly hogged the creative limelight at their expense. During Renaissance and the period of Romanticism, muses were represented sensually and quite often erotically, thereby objectifying them to a large extent and reducing their role to a mere physical level.

Famous artist-muse couples like Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, Camille Claudel and Rodin are etched in art history, but we usually overlook these women as artists in their own right, not to mention human beings with their own identity. Sadly enough, they are remembered merely as models, lovers and muses.

However, with time, the once objectified female muse transformed into a strong, fierce woman who stood up for her rights and honor against the oppression of the society. Modern art is marked with such bold and emancipated figures that have made a place for themselves in the male dominated world. More about them in the second part of this post, so stay tuned!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

http://www.artnet.com/artists/andrea-del-sarto/portrait-of-a-lady-known-as-lucrezia-del-fede-3uGvqodFiPE1HaGNwTiaIg2

https://www.manet.org/luncheon-on-the-grass.jsp

https://www.manet.org/street-singer.jsp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_Madame_X

https://en.artsdot.com/@@/8XXPH5-Fran%C3%A7ois-Auguste-Ren%C3%A9-Rodin-Portrait-of-Camille-Claudel-with-a-Bonnet

http://www.gustavklimt.net/virgin/

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-forgotten-story-audrey-munson-famous-muse-fierce-advocate-women-artists

http://blog.lofty.com/featured/the-muse-of-manhattan/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2008/jun/02/theroleoftheartistsmuse

https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/historys-most-fascinating-muses/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2008/jun/02/theroleoftheartistsmuse

We Pick Our Top 10 Art Historical Muses

https://owlcation.com/humanities/The-Function-of-the-Muse

A Tribute to Womanhood

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A woman is a special being that possesses the miraculous power of creation itself. Being the harbinger of life, creativity comes naturally to her and she is born with it. Just as she conceives life inside her body, nurtures it and finally brings it into the world, she can also spawn beautiful ideas in the womb of her intellect, cultivate them and eventually deliver them to one and all.   

This post is a celebration of feminine creativity and is especially dedicated to all my fellow women artists out there. Why? Because it’s International Women’s Day of course! So here’s wishing all those wonderful ladies that hold the power of creation in their hands, a Very Happy Women’s Day!!

A woman is a receptacle of limitless talent. Throughout history, there has been many a women artist who has created outstanding works of art, be it in the form of paintings, photographs, sculpture or motion picture.  Artists like Mary Beal, Gwen John, Lee Krasner, Eileen Aigar and Frida Kahlo to name a few have made some of the most distinguished contributions towards the field of fine art in particular.

Inspite of facing constant opposition from their male counterparts, women artists have outdone themselves and stood the test of time. Today they are as integral a part of the institution of art as their fellow male artists and walk hand in hand with them, their heads held up high.

One of the greatest gifts a woman possesses is her power to express and emote better than a man. It is this faculty that a women artist harnesses successfully and uses to its fullest potential in order to emote her thoughts to her viewers. This skill allows her to redefine and extend the boundaries of art thus making a mark for herself in the male-dominated world.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day and in celebration of Women’s Week, my next few posts will tell you the story of not only few of the amazing women who have played muse to artists or have inspired art in some way or the other, but also some well known women artists themselves in the field of fine art. So let me kick off the festivities with my personal ode to commemorate this celebration of femininity.    

My tribute on Women’s Day

My artwork displayed above titled “Cheers to Womanhood!” has been inspired by the fabulous womankind that has held its ground with its never-say-die attitude. It is also a mark of respect to all my fellow women artists, in recognition of the remarkable work done by them in the past and looking up to them as a source of inspiration in the future.

This piece of art symbolizes the strength of a woman on the whole and how she is capable of carrying the weight of the entire world on her shoulders. For centuries, women have been marginalized and dominated by men, especially in my country, India. But things are changing now and women are no longer the oppressed sex of the society. For the Indian woman in particular, standing up for her rights against all the atrocities and hardships of the world is a feat in itself.

The veil of modesty that she drapes around her head in the artwork does not diminish her strength or abilities in any way, but only enhances their beauty and power furthermore. The “bindi” or red dot in the centre of her forehead is yet another symbol of her brute force and not just a mark of adornment. Through the expression on her face and the look in her eyes, I have tried to convey that she’s the epitome of power and she’s here to stay.

I have created this piece using prismacolor pencils, with a hint of brush markers for the subtle details. I tried out something new for the background of the veil around the woman’s face. I rendered it with water color pencils, giving it a soft water color wash using a brush dipped in water. Then I added a second layer of color on top, but this time with chalk pastels and once again gave it a wash with my moist brush. I am happy to say that the two shades of peach and pink that I used for the background blended in quite well to create a water color effect. Then I created the print of the fabric with consecutive layers of pencil colors, fine tip markers and rubber stamping with distress ink, thereby adding intricate details to the print.  The face of the woman has been done with prismacolor pencils.

This artwork is not only my tribute to the feminine spirit but also a portrait of the artist in her who has been endowed with the ability to conceive and thereafter deliver her vision. I hope you like my rendition as well as celebration of feminality and you look forward to my upcoming posts in its honor.  

So watch this space for more and till then….

CHEERS TO WOMANHOOD!