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Paintings, Illustrations, Photography, Diagrams etc. of Women

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The Red Rose Girls

The Red Rose Girls were a group American artists who were active in the early 20th century;  Jessie Willcox Smith, Violet Oakley and Elizabeth Shippen Green all had distinguished careers and continue to be inspirations for aspiring women artists today.  
From left to right: Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Jessie Willcox Smith and Henrietta Cozens in their Chestnut Street studio (1901)   Smith and Green produced many illustrations for children's books as well as for some of the largest publications of the day including Scribner's, Collier's, Haper's, Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping. Oakley became an accomplished muralist and spent a good part of her career painting murals for the Pennsylvania State Capital building.  
Mother and Child - Jessie Willcox Smith (1908)  
Youth and the Arts - Violet Oakley (1910-1911)   They were fortunate to have the support of their families to train as artists, which at the time, was one of a limited number of viable careers for young women to consider. The default "career" for most women was to become wives and mothers. Other possibilities included teaching, housekeeping and sewing but competition among women for these types of careers was fierce and wages were relatively low.  
The Journey - Elizabeth Shippen Green (1903)   Smith, Oakley and Green were also fortunate to start their careers near the turn of the 20th century when there was a large and growing demand for artists and illustrators to create pictures for popular books, periodicals and magazines.  While the opportunities for women artists were growing there were still systemic barriers in artist training including the prohibition of using live nudes in sketching classes.  These unfair customs were beginning to be challenged though by women artists surreptitiously taking turns at being the live nude model for the others.  
The Womens' Life Class - Alice Barber Stephens (1879)   The three women met while attending an illustration course at the Drexler Institute taught by Howard Pyle, an accomplished illustrator and writer famous for his creation of Robin Hood.  One day he assigned Smith and Oakley to work together on an illustration project and they discovered that they enjoyed working cooperatively which proved to be the spark for a lifetime of friendship and collaboration.  
The Genius of Art - Howard Pyle (c.1903)   Pyle was instrumental in getting  a commission for Violet and Jessie to illustrate the novel Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1897 and he urged the women to follow a  professional career path which would allow the full development of their artistic potential as well as provide them with financial independence.  Oakley and Smith became roommates with Green and a fourth woman, Henrietta Cozens, who wasn't an artist but who acted as a "wife" for the other three and took care of all domestic necessities.   From left to right: Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Jessie Willcox Smith and Henrietta Cozens (ca.1901) Above - official publicity photo Below - moments after the above   They first lived together in a studio apartment in Philadelphia and later moved to a more spacious and tranquil location in the suburbs called The Red Rose Inn - which is how they acquired their nickname.  The four women were completely devoted to each other and made a vow to live together as a family forever - they even gave themselves a communal surname - Cogs - which represented the first letter of each of their maiden surnames. The communal family grew over time to include cats and a dog, Prince, and elderly members of Elizabeth's and Violet's family. .
Violet Oakley   The Red Rose Girls were much more than just artistic colleagues or friends; their communal family shared many characteristics with what was known at the time as a "Boston marriage", which was the term used to describe  unmarried women who lived together in supposedly asexual relationships, but which featured emotional intimacy and openly expressed passionate love.  Such romantic friendships were accepted by society because women were assumed to be asexual unless part of a heterosexual marriage; they were thus considered a suitable life choice for newly independent women who chose a career over a husband and children.  
Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith (date unknown)  
Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Willcox Smith, Violet Oakley at home (date unknown)   One can see evidence for the societal acceptance of Boston marriages in the late 19th and early 20th century by looking at the campus culture(s) at all-women universities of the time.  Officially sanctioned social activities prohibited men from attendance but encouraged the formation of strong emotional ties among the students.  The events were meant to be romantic affairs and any resulting infatuations between students evidently did not displease the young women, the university administrators nor the general public.  
Daisy Chain Procession At Vassar - Fay Poughkeepsie
  An article in the January 1985 periodical The Century entitled "Festivals in American Colleges for Women" describes one event at Smith College: "Looking down from the running-track on seven or eight hundred girls dancing together, one is struck by the almost theatrical effect of the swaying forms and bright colors against the background of lavish decoration with which the second class has tried to outdo the class above. Men are not missed, so well are their places filled by the assiduous sophomores. Each new girl is escorted to the gymnasium by her partner, who in addition to filling her dancing-card and sending her flowers, provides her with a "memrobil," sees that she meets the right person for each dance, entertains her during refreshments and escorts her home."  
Vassar Class Day on the Lawn  (1895)   Boston marriages were quite common among women faculty at women's universities and colleges in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  According to Lillian Faderman, of the 53 women faculty at Wellesley College in 1895 only one was married to a man and most of the rest were living with a woman.  
Promenade by Constant - Emile Troyon (c.1850)   Society's perceptions about the innocence and benevolence of romantic friendships between women slowly began to change, first in Europe and later in North America. Psychologists and sexologists started to look into the nature of women's romantic friendships and found that in many cases the women involved were not asexual and were instead having genital  sex with each other.  An article by Dr. Havelock Ellis in a 1902 issue of the Pacific Medical Journal warned that the crushes that young women developed in all-women colleges were increasingly showing signs of physical affection: "They kiss each other fondly on every occasion. They embrace each other with mutual satisfaction. It is most natural, in the interchange of visits, for them to sleep together. They learn the pleasure of direct contact, and in the course of their fondling they resort to cunnilinguistic practices. . . . After this a normal sex act fails to satisfy..."  
In Bed, The Kiss - Henri Toulouse-Letrec (1892)   The alarm of the researchers slowly seeped into the attitudes and perceptions of society and by the 1920s Boston marriages and romantic friendships between women were beginning to be regarded as likely places of "abnormal" and "deviant" sex.  The word lesbian began to be used to describe women who lived together and it was presumed that such relationships included sex.  
Alice Austen - The Darned Club,  October 29, 1891. (from left to right Alice, Trude Eccleston, Julia Marsh and Sue Ripley. (The name Darned Club was coined by local disrespectful men)   The Red Rose Girls were probably not aware of the gradual change of society's attitude about their communal family, and thus they probably saw nothing abnormal at all about their mutual affection, even if it did include sleeping together and having sex. The consensus of opinion seems to be that they likely were lovers in the contemporary sense but without the concrete recognition of it from society (either positive or negative). One can imagine that from their point of view their relationship(s) were a blissful state of  natural and normal love between women.  
The Kingdom of Heaven - Violet Oakley (1903)   Elizabeth, Violet, Jessie and Henrietta  were inspiring role models who showed how women could become professionally successful and financially independent through hard work and mutual support. They exemplified the "New Woman" movement of the time which was the term given to women who were educated, vocal, and increasingly free of oppressive social norms. They remain inspirations today for the same reasons but also for the example of their communal and romantic family, which in today's atmosphere of acceptance of alternative lifestyles, could be considered as a valid model  for many, if not most women.
  Life was Made for Love and Cheer - Elizabeth Shippen Green (1904) [depicts Green, Smith, Oakley and Cozens with friends and guests at the Red Rose Inn. Their St. Bernard, Prince is in the foreground.]  
from A Child's Garden of Verses - Jessie Willcox Smith (1905)  
Trio at Cogslea: Elizabeth Shippen Green, Henrietta Cozens, and Jessie Willcox Smith - Violet Oakley (unfinished)   References:
The Library - Elizabeth Shippen Green (1905)   The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love - by Alice Walker
https://www.amazon.com/Red-Rose-Girls-Uncommon-Story/dp/0810944375
An excellent biography, highly recommended.

Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians by Esther D. Rothblum (Editor)
https://www.amazon.com/Boston-Marriages-Romantic-Relationships Contemproary/dp/0870238760

The Red Rose Girls -New Exhibit Documents Early 20th Century Trio of Women Artists,  an audio interview with author Alice Carter
https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1507247

#HerStory 11: The Red Rose Girls by Janet K Lee, a short podcast interview
https://herstory.chickhistory.org/2014/03/11/chick-history-herstory-11-the-red-rose-girls-by-janet-k-lee/

“God-gifted girls”: The Rise of Women Illustrators in Late Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia by Patricia Smith Scanlan
http://www.ncgsjournal.com/issue112/scanlan.htm

Roses in January - January 9, 2012 blogpost in Wissahickon Schist:
Gardening in Northwest Philadelphia along the Wissahickon Watershed
http://wissahickonschist.blogspot.com/2012/01/

AMERICAS FINEST: THE RED ROSE GIRLS (1863-1935) - February 23, 2013 blogpost in VICTORIAN MUSINGS
https://kimberlyevemusings.blogspot.com/2013/02/americas-finest-red-rose-girls-1863-1935.html

THE GOLDEN AGE OF ILLUSTRATION: THE RED ROSE GIRLS - November 21, 2017 blogpost in ENCHANTED CONVERSATION: FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES & MYTHS
http://www.fairytalemagazine.com/2017/11/the-golden-age-of-illustration-red-rose.html

The Early Career of Violet Oakley, Illustrator by Bailey Van Hook
Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2009), pp. 29-38

A Grand Vision: Violet Oakley and the American Renaissance
https://woodmereartmuseum.org/experience/exhibitions/a-grand-vision-violet-oakley-and-the-american-renaissance

Red Rose Girls by Mark W. Sullivan, entry in The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
https://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/red-rose-girls/

Howard Pyle, a blog by Iab Sschoenherr
https://howardpyle.blogspot.com

Alice Austen House, The Darned Club
https://aliceausten.org/darned-club

Boston Marriage
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_marriage

Red Rose Girls
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Rose_Girls

Elizabeth Shippen Green
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Shippen_Green

Jessie Willcox Smith
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessie_Willcox_Smith

Violet Oakley
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violet_Oakley
     

celeste teal

celeste teal

 

Artistic Visions of Women with Women 2

A woman looking at The Sleepers by Gustave Courbet - source unknown The previous blog post in this series ended with a brief description of the The Sleepers which many feel is one of the most important LGBpaintings in history for the honest and sympathetic depiction of same-sex sexuality.  This post reviews the artistic environment of works featuring women with women produced around the time that Courbet painted The Sleepers.   Women Bathing at the Brook - Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller  (1848) Many paintings were produced in the 17th to 19th century depicting a group of young women bathing together, usually naked, for the pleasure of male viewers. Often the bathers are shown in languid poses suggesting ready availability for the viewer(s) but here Waldmuller shows the women interested in something that has happened beyond the edge of the painting creating some mystery and tension.   Courage, Anxiety and Despair: Watching the Battle - James Sant  (c.1850) This painting by Sant is atypical of the vast majority of 19th century paintings of women, most of which show domestic scenes and lives lived mostly separately from the world of men and affairs of the world.  Here Sant shows us a scene of battle that we don't often see - from a female point of view and how they are affected by and respond to organized male violence.   A Morning. The Dance of the Nymphs - Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot  (1850-1851) The title of this painting does not make specific reference to ancient mythology but the scene is reminiscent of many from the past which featured the nymphs of Diana or Venus celebrating life, womanhood and perhaps Bacchus. These more modern dancing women are clothed and could be seen as ballet dancers celebrating nature on a natural stage.     Promenade - Constant-Emile Troyon (c. 1850s) The 19th century saw unprecedented improvements in living standards which allowed greater numbers of women to have leisure time to spend, usually with other women, on strolls in gardens, or parks, or sharing confidences and the joys of life as a woman in the industrializing West.   The Ball Gown  -  Jules Trayer  (1860)   Along the Arno to the Cascine - Giuseppe Abbati  (1862)   Bringing Home the May - Peach Robinson  (1862) This photograph is an example of the movement known as Pictorialsim which was dedicated to advancing photography as a legitimate form of imaginative fine art and not just a technology for static portraits. Pictorialists carefully planned their scenes using models, costumes and sometimes multiple exposures which were combined into a single composite image. Here Robinson creates a romantic and idealized representation of country life.   First Born - Gustave-Leonard de Jonghe (1863)   Red Shirts Staplers - Odoardo Borrani  (1863)   Elegant Women on the Beach - Eugene Louis Boudin (1863)   Buying Fruit and Vegetables at the Night Market -  Petrus Van Schendel  (1863)   Listening to the News of the Day -  Gerolamo Induno  (1864)   Restful Afternoon - Charles Hue  (c.1864)   A Walk  - Silvestro Lega  (1864)   Two Women in a Clearing - Louis Dericks  (1864)   Two Women in the Garden of Castiglioncello - Giovanni Fattori  (1864-5)   Spring - Jacques James Tissot  (1865)   Livorno Waterholes - Giovanni Fattori   (1865) Some artists chose to depict women together in rural peasant scenes as a more honest and real representation of most womens' lives.   Forbidden Fruit - Auguste Toulmouche  (1865) The rising standards of living included the growth of book publishing and reading and many paintings depict women engaged with books.  Sate sponsored secular education of girls and women emerged in the West in the middle of 19th century.   Women Dancing in a Brothel - Constantin Guys  (c.1865) Guys was one of the Realist artists in Paris who traveled the streets and painted what he saw.  Here he shows us the social life of women with other women inside a brothel.   Women in the Garden - Claude Monet   (1866) The Impressionists were a group of artists that succeeded the Realists in France as an important counter-cultural artistic community.  Like the Realists they were dedicated to painting everyday life but pioneered painting plein-air (outdoors) using palettes of bright, vibrant colours.   The Visit to the Artist's Sudio - Louis Marie Joseph Ridel  (1866) Painting as a profession was dominated by males in the 19th century as it had been for centuries but it became both increasingly acceptable for women to become painters and achievable with prosperous families financially supporting their daughters aspirations.   In Sun -  Vincenzo Cabianca  (1866)   The Secret - Jules Salles-Wagner  (c.1866)   The Reluctant Bride - Auguste Toulmouche  (1866)   Summer Days - Julia Margaret Cameron  (1866) The new technology of photography attracted many artistic talents to explore the potential of the medium. Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) emerged as one of the finest portraitists of the nineteenth century - in any medium. She took up photography in her late forties and produced over a thousand images over 14 years.   Promenade - Paul Cézanne  (1866) Cézanne, one of the Impressionists,  shows us via the arrangement of the figures, the reality of relations between the sexes in the 19th century. The men are standing indicating their greater status and are engaged in discussing important matters of the day while their wives are parked on a bench waiting silently for the men to conclude their conversation.   Minerva and the Graces - Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre  (1866)   Apricots - Albert Joseph Moore  (1866)   The Hermitage at Pontoise - Camille Pissarro  (1867) Pissarro was one of the pioneers of Impressionism and he painted outdoors in rural France for most of his life. Here he completes a scene of tranquil serenity with a genial meeting on the road of two women, one a young mother.
Blind Man's Bluff - Charles Baugniet  (c.1867)   The Confidence - James Tissot   (1867)   Six Bathers - Adolphe-Joseph Thomas Monticelli  (c.1867)   After the Manner of the Elgin Marbles - Julia Margaret Cameron    (1867)   The Drawing Lesson - Charles Baugniet  (c.1867)   An Interior with Japanese Objects - Juan Leon Palliere  (c.1867)   Collecting Water - Edward John Cobbett  (c.1867)   Confidences - Jules Adolphe Goupil  (1867)   Spring's New Arrivals - Charles Baugniet  (c.1867)   The Visit - Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens  (c.1867)   The Love Letter - Gustave Léonard de Jonghe  (1867)
A Shared Moment - Cesare Felix Georges Dell'Acqua  (1868)   Young Women of Sparta - Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot  (c.1868) The musician in the foreground appears bored, perhaps melancholic since her talents aren't appreciated by the women in the background, who are practicing their hand-to-hand combat skills as warriors for militaristic Sparta.   The Weeders - Jules Breton   (1868)   Quartet of Musicians  - Albert Joseph Moore  (1868) Moore creates visual tension here by his arrangement of the figures. The standing women and sitting men is a flip of what one would expect within a patriarchy and the close embrace of the two women suggests a romantic connection.   Allegory of Lust for Life - Hans Makart  (1868)   Spring Scene - Anselm Feuerbach  (1868)   The Bath - Marc Charles Gabriel Gleyre  (1868)   The Eavesdropper - Carl Heinrich Hoff  (1868)   Confidences - Cristiano Banti  (1868)   Women's Art Class - Louis Lang  (c.1868)   Elegant Ladies at the Baths - Raffaello Sorbi (1868)   The Visit - Alfred Émile Léopold Stevens  (c.1869)   A Visit to the Haunted Chamber - William Frederick Yeames   (1869)   Ladies Playing Billiards - Charles Edouard Boutibonne  (1869)   The Diary - Auguste Toulmouche   (c.1869)   Young Ladies Looking at Japanese Objects - James Tissot  (1869)   Two Seated Women - Mary Cassatt  (1869) The Impressionists considered themselves socially progressive and deliberately included both men and women among their ranks;  Cassatt and another woman Berthe Morisot were prominent members. Despite being accepted as an artist of equal merit she was limited by the range of subjects she could paint as she was not able to move as freely around Paris and rural France as her male colleagues could.   At the Opera - Charles Edouard Boutibonne  (1869)   The Hay Field - Thomas Armstrong  (1869)   The Daydreams -  Auguste Toulmouche   (c.1869)   Young Women Looking at Japanese Objects - James Tissot  (c.1869-1870)   A Surprising Visit - Otto Wilhelm Eduard Erdmann   (1870)   Rural Landscape - Ernesto Rayper  (1870)   A Beach Stroll - Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer  (1870)   Bathers - Paul Cézanne  (1870) Cézanne appears to be anticipating future artistic movements with this painting, which is more about shapes and colours than it is about the portrayal of soft, voluptuous bodies of women. These figures look cold, and perhaps uncomfortable, after their swim in the dark of night.   A tintype from 1870.  A stand was often used for the subjects to lean against to prevent movement which would result in image blurring.   Glance Exchanged - Frederik Henrdik Kaemmerer   (c.1870) The arrangement of the seated men and women suggests that the exchanged glance is between two women, perhaps a moment of attraction and/or flirtation.   Back From the Dance - Giuseppe de Nittis   (1870)   The Washerwomen of the Breton Coast - Jules Breton  (1870)   Fannie (née Heriot), Lady Wentworth; possibly Maria Colclough Turner (née Heriot, later Blyth) - W. & D. Downey (1870)   The Visit - Albert Roosenboom  (c.1870)   The Love Letter - Petrus van Schendel  (1870)   By the Well - Jozsef Molnar  (c.1870)   La Toilette - Frédéric Bazille  (1870) This painting belongs to a genre that reflects the Wests' fascination with the Orient/Middle East and depicts a scene within a harem.  The intended audience were males, who enjoy the nudity and the subtext of lesbian sexuality.  There were a great number of harem related works produced in the 19th century but I've chosen to include only a few of them in this series of blog posts.   The next post will continue with works produced during the 1870s.  

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celeste teal

 

Artistic Visions of Women with Women (without commentary)

Artistic vision is having the clarity to fall in love with what you see. - Chogyam Trungpa   This post represents a travel through time to see a sampling of artistic works whose subject is primarily the connection of women with other women.  Along the way we'll see different kinds of relationships and bonds that women have with each other which artists and society in general have decided has value and is worth celebrating. This post will feature paintings and images only to give viewers the chance to feel their own impressions without any extra/spoiling input from me. There will be a separate post where I will post my comments along with the paintings and images.   The Three Graces from Primvera - Sandro Botticelli (c.1482)     Venus, Flora, Mars and Cupid (Allegory) - Paris Bardone (1570)   Allegory of the Union of Painting and Poetry - Francesco Furini  (1626)   Allegory of Water and Earth - Jan Breughel II  and Frans Francken II (c. 1620-1640)   Jupiter Disguised as Diana Seducing the Nymph Callisto - Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem (1620-1683)   Nymphs by a Fountain - Peter Lely (c.1650)   Diana and Her Companions - Johannes Vermeer (c. 1650s)   Justice and Peace Embracing - Antonio Balestra  (ca. 1700)   Diana and Callisto - Pietro Liberi (1670)   Study for 'Justice, Peace, and Truth' - Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Baciccio)  (c. 1666-1672)   La Toilette - François Boucher (1742)   Two Nymphs of Diana resting after their Return from the Hunt - François Boucher (1748)     The Union of Painting and Sculpture - Jean Louis Lagrenee (1768)   Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Servant Girls' Dormitory, c. 1770   Diana and her Nymphs Bathing - Angelica Kauffman (c.1778-82)   La Bonne Nouvelle (The Good News) - Marguerite Gérard (c. 1804)   The Greek Poet Sappho and the Girl from Mytilene' - Nicolai Abildgaard (1809)   Helena and Hermia - Washington Allston (ca. 1810)   The Lovers - Jules-Robert Auguste  (c. 1820)   Moonrise over the Sea - Caspar David Friedrich  (1822)   Germania and Italia - Friedrich Overbeck  (1811-28)   Boarding School Friends - attributed to "French School" (1837)   Der Liebesbrief (The Love Letter) - Ferdinand Georg Waldmueller  (1845)   Bathers - Pierre Olivier Joseph Coomans (1816-1889)   La Chute du Chat (Two Women Disturbed by a Cat) - Jean-Alphonse Roehn (1800s)   Anna Henriette Stelzner with her friend Frau von Braunschweig, 1849   The Tepidarium - Theodore Chasseriau (1853)   Two Women Chatting by the Sea, St. Thomas - Camille Pissarro (1856)   The Reapers - Jules Breton (c.1860)   Nymphs Bathing - Arnold Böcklin (1863-6)   Le Sommeil (The Sleepers) - Gustave Courbet (1866)   Devant Courbet - Thomas Levy-Lanse (2011)   To Be Continued.......This ends the first part of this trip through art-time.

celeste teal

celeste teal

 

Artistic Visions of Women with Women (with commentary)

Artistic vision is having the clarity to fall in love with what you see. - Chogyam Trungpa   This post represents a travel through time to see a sampling of artistic works whose subject is primarily the connection of women with other women.  Along the way we'll see different kinds of relationships and bonds that women have with each other which artists and society in general have decided has value and is worth celebrating.     Let's travel back in time to 1482 when the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli painted Primavera (the Allegory of Spring) for a member of the Medici family.  This beautiful masterpiece would have taken Botticelli, a very skilled artist, many weeks or months to complete and would have been impossible to complete without the financial support of a wealthy family and/or institution.  That kind of sponsorship usually led to the work of art being held privately.   The Three Graces from Primvera - Sandro Botticelli (c.1482) In the left part of the painting we see the Three Graces, Chastity, Beauty, & Love, in an intimate dance with their fingers intertwined and their eyes gazing upon each other.  The mythology of the Graces date back to ancient Greece where they are seen as minor goddesses and daughters of Zeus and Eurynome. They are often depicted nude although in Primavera Botticelli chose to clothe them in sensual, diaphanous gowns.       Venus, Flora, Mars and Cupid (Allegory) - Paris Bardone (1570) In the above painting by Bardone we see the two mythological characters Venus  (Goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility) sitting intimately with Flora (Goddess of flowers and spring). Interestingly, both Venus and Flora are depicted in Primavera although separately.  It is fairly common in art history  to see two, or more, women displayed in an intimate manner to symbolize unity or a synergy between their supernatural domains.  An additional explanation is that the male artists who created these works were providing what they and/or their patrons desired to see - women being intimate with other women for their own visceral enjoyment, and used mythology to justify the intimacy.     Allegory of the Union of Painting and Poetry - Francesco Furini  (1626) Furini's allegorical figures are more erotic than Bardone's. There is more exposed skin, including a breast and the two women are positioned to begin kissing. "Poetry" is making eye contact with us, the viewer, and she seems to be confirming our erotic suspicions with a coy smile.        Allegory of Water and Earth - Jan Breughel II  and Frans Francken II (c. 1620-1640) Here we see the intimacy of two women as being allegorical to the synergy of water and earth and the bounty of life and growth that the combination provides.     Jupiter Disguised as Diana Seducing the Nymph Callisto - Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem (1620-1683) The story of Jupiter taking the appearance of Diana to seduce the nymph Callisto comes from the epic narrative poem Metamorphses written by Ovid in the year 8 AD. There are many paintings which depict scenes from the story and some focus on the eroticism of  apparent lesbianism, such as in the above painting by Berchem.     Nymphs by a Fountain - Peter Lely (c.1650) Nymphs are divine spirits from ancient Greek and Latin mythology who animate nature and are usually depicted as young nubile women, often nude, who love to sing and dance and cavort with each other and their deity, with is often Diana or Venus. They are often shown to be residents of woods but sometimes are depicted as sea nymphs. In Lely's painting we see our nymphs worn out after a long hard day of frolicking and are sleeping together in a communal cuddle, which strongly suggests lesbian cavorting.     Diana and Her Companions - Johannes Vermeer (c. 1650s) Diana is having her feet washed by one of her nymphs which is reminiscent of a biblical  scene. The atmosphere here is one of humility, service and reverence and is quite different from most Diana-nymph paintings which are usually have a degree of eroticism.     Justice and Peace Embracing - Antonio Balestra  (ca. 1700) Here is another symbolic painting showing two women being intimate to represent the unity of justice with peace. Although they are fully clothed the women are clearly expressing sexual intentions as they lean towards each other to kiss while cupid shows his appreciation for their desire.     Diana and Callisto - Pietro Liberi (1670) This painting based on Metamorphses shows Diana after the seduction of Callisto by Jupiter (appearing as Diana). Although this scene is one of discovery and consolation,  is bursting with sexuality and the eroticism of implied lesbianism as we see Diana and her nymphs fully naked and in intimate connections with each other. This kind of depiction of women as soft,voluptuous and sensual creatures by men, for the viewing pleasure of other men will be repeated often in many subsequent paintings spanning over 200 years.     Study for 'Justice, Peace, and Truth' - Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Baciccio)  (c. 1666-1672) This symbolic union features a soft kiss between Justice and Peace while adding an element of voyeurism as Truth looks on as cherubs/cupids place a crown on the head of the head of Justice.     La Toilette - François Boucher (1742) Boucher was a prolific and prominent painter for the French aristocracy during the 18th century who enjoyed his decorative Rococo style which often included an atmosphere of eroticism. In this painting he has added a degree of implied lesbianism in a contemporary setting. Are the women flirting, or perhaps getting dressed after a time of shared passion?     Two Nymphs of Diana resting after their Return from the Hunt - François Boucher (1748) Here Boucher depicts a mythological setting without the context of a typical narrative.  It is illustrative of the lifestyle we can assume the nymphs had, namely intimate, romantic and erotic relationships with each other.     The Union of Painting and Sculpture - Jean Louis Lagrenee (1768) This symbolic union of  the Fine Visual Arts is especially erotic with a half naked embrace witnessed by an approving Cupid.     Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Servant Girls' Dormitory, c. 1770 Fragonard was another prominent Rococo artist who also specialized in erotic themes. In this drawing he provides his viewers with a special and privileged access to a private, but plausible scene unavailable to men. It's a pure voyeuristic fantasy where men can imagine the pleasure of the young women as they explore their romantic and erotic urges for each other.  A feminist analysis of this work would conclude that these women are passive sex objects created by a man for the enjoyment of men and it's primary message to women is one of male dominance over women, even in imaginary scenes which only involve women.     Diana and her Nymphs Bathing - Angelica Kauffman (c.1778-82) Kauffman was a successful artist in London and Rome who specialized in historical works, and was one of a growing number of women who were able to achieve success in the male dominated arts industry.  Her treatment of a classical mythology scene that usually features implied lesbianism is arguably more romantic than erotic.     La Bonne Nouvelle (The Good News) - Marguerite Gérard (c. 1804) Gérard would become a sister-in-law of Jean-Honoré Fragonard and under his tutelage would become a successful artist specializing in scenes of domestic life including memorable moments of motherhood and childhood. Many early women artists focused on these daily life or genre scenes as they were denied access to art schools and the training required to paint ambitious and prestigious historical themes. In the above painting we see the close relationship between relatives, perhaps sisters or cousins as they share the contents of a letter.     The Greek Poet Sappho and the Girl from Mytilene' - Nicolai Abildgaard (1809) Abildgaard, in this painting depicts lesbianism between Sappho, a known historical figure and one of her disciples.  Eroticism of this nature was most likely privately commissioned for male enjoyment.     Helena and Hermia - Washington Allston (ca. 1810) This painting depicts a scene between characters from William Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. Helena and Hermia are close friends and there is some ambiguity about the nature of their relationship which to some appears homoerotic. At the very least they appear to be "romantic" friends in Allston's painting.     The Lovers - Jules-Robert Auguste  (c. 1820) This scene of explicit lesbianism takes place in a vague outdoor location on top of a luxurious pile of fabrics. The interracial couple implies that this might be a scene associated with a harem which adds an extra exotic twist to the voyeuristic fantasy. Paintings depicting harems and the women who inhabited them are quite common in the 19th century. Often the women in harems are arranged in poses which imply lesbianism but usually not as obviously as in the August work above.     Moonrise over the Sea - Caspar David Friedrich  (1822) We share a beautiful outdoors view with three people sitting on the rock.  The closeness of the women compared to the man seated behind them signifies their close emotional connection. We, the viewer, can imagine ourselves in their place, seeing the beauty of nature while sitting close to a loved one.  Alternately we can see the women's relationship as a part of or the focal point in the scene of natural beauty.  The exact nature of their connection - sister, friend or perhaps lover doesn't really matter.     Germania and Italia - Friedrich Overbeck  (1811-28) This symbolic union between Italia (the "south", on the left) and Germania (the "north") represents the two major areas of European civilization and their unique characteristics and approaches towards art. Here we can see the need, the desire, the craving of Germania to be more like Italia, to become more expressive, emotional and passionate. In symbolic union paintings like these there is a recognition or belief, beyond the implied lesbianism, that the connection between women can be profound, synergistic and durable.     Boarding School Friends - attributed to "French School" (1837) This painting brings to life the passion of two women for each other. The plausible setting, the lack of nudity and the sensuality expressed by their hands and posture makes this scene crackle with eroticism.  This was drawn for the pleasure of men, but one can imagine the effect it might have had on women, and perhaps the artist(s) did.     Der Liebesbrief (The Love Letter) - Ferdinand Georg Waldmueller  (1845) The glow of the lamp reveals the glow in their hearts as they share the most intimate  details written in a letter of love.  The fingers on her shoulder and the warmth in her eyes reveal that the connection (love) between the women is immediate, real and profound.     Bathers - Pierre Olivier Joseph Coomans (1816-1889) There is a subtle distinction between "nymphs" and "bathers" with the latter being more plausible and perhaps easier to fantasize. These two young women are enjoying sharing their beauty and feelings of sexuality, perhaps for the first time, with each other. The blond woman fills the scene inviting viewers to visually caress her body up and down and when we pause at her face we can empathize with her emotional state and follow her eyes to the sitting woman whose emotions we can only infer. Her pose is reminiscent of Venus or Aphrodite and perhaps she is feeling like a Goddess of Love as she holds the gaze of her companion.     La Chute du Chat (Two Women Disturbed by a Cat) - Jean-Alphonse Roehn (1800s) The artistic movement of Realism, whose aim was to depict contemporary life, as-it-was, was growing in the mid 19th century. This painting clearly reflects realism - the room looks messy and worn and the two women are clearly of modest means. The fact that they are show together in bed strongly implies lesbianism but in the most mundane, everyday kind of way, which delivers the shocking message that women can be lovers in everyday, real life. This painting is not so much erotic voyeuristic fantasy as it is a revelation of social reality.     Anna Henriette Stelzner with her friend Frau von Braunschweig, 1849 The Realism movement in art started to gain traction at roughly the same time as photography was becoming  technologically and commercially viable in the middle of the 19th century.  The current state of photography made it most suitable for capturing highly detailed portraits in a fraction of the time and effort required to produce a portrait painting.  Here we see two young women portrayed intimately suggesting a possible romantic friendship (or more?).  This photograph was taken by Anna's husband Carl Ferdinand Stelzner who was an early pioneer of photography.     The Tepidarium - Theodore Chasseriau (1853) A tepidarium was a heated room where bathers could relax and dry off after bathing in another chamber.  The atmosphere here is indeed hot and highly erotic for a number of reasons. Our attention is first drawn to the half naked woman dancing sensually for the seated woman whose seems to be frozen in appreciation. Their eyes are locked together suggesting mutual arousal and pleasure.  As we look around the room we can see other women are enjoying the performance while others are looking away to exchange furtive, suggestive glances. One woman appears to be looking directly at us, the viewer, inviting us (women) to participate in the erotic spectacle of women being aroused by other women. This painting was exhibited at the Salon in Paris in 1853 and although mostly intended for male viewing it is very likely that it was seen, and meant to be seen by women.     Two Women Chatting by the Sea, St. Thomas - Camille Pissarro (1856) Here we see two African-Caribbean women stopping to chat on a sandy pathway. They are bathed in warm sunlight and a soft sea breeze which adds to the pleasure of their friendly encounter.  They are ordinary working women but posses dignity and self-respect which is worthy of our admiration.     The Reapers - Jules Breton (c.1860) These peasant women are also admirable as they walk home together after a long day of hard work in the fields.  We can see that they care for, and support one another which suggests strong affectionate bonds and a high degree of group unity and cohesion.  This unity, and the affectionate bonds which support it is an invisible, but real beauty that is revealed by their actions towards each other.  A viewer who empathizes with them becomes, in a sense, part of their supportive group.     Nymphs Bathing - Arnold Böcklin (1863-6) Böcklin was a Symbolist painter, a movement which strove to represent absolute truths in an indirect manner. Here we see two naked women bathing together in small stream shaded by a few trees. The golden wheat fields surrounding them gives their bathing place the aura of an rejuvenating , restorative oasis surrounded by desert. The standing woman's arms are spread wide open as an invitation for a loving embrace to the kneeling woman perhaps suggesting that loving intimacy between women is a kind of emotional oasis in a harsh patriarchal world.     Le Sommeil (The Sleepers) - Gustave Courbet (1866) Courbet was a leading member of the Realism movement and was a prestigious painter when he was commissioned by a Turkish diplomat to paint this explicit scene of lesbians sensually coiled together after making love.  On the bed is a broken pearl necklace which is evidence of their intense romantic struggle.  The theme of lesbianism was a popular one in contemporary erotica, and it was a recognized social phenomena but was associated with prostitution and didn't enjoy public moral approval. The public reaction to this painting, which was devoid of any ambiguity or delicacy, was one of shock and it was forbidden to be shown publicly until 1988.  Within the art world it was well known and influenced the work of subsequent artists.     Devant Courbet - Thomas Levy-Lanse (2011) The public reaction to Le Sommeil today remains mixed. Seen through a feminist lens it is a work of male imagination which objectifies women and fetishizes lesbianism  for a male audience. Others see it as an important and realistic portrayal of lesbians which has had a positive influence on the public acceptance of lesbians and LGBTQ rights.  The above painting shows a guide telling a group of women about the painting as they are viewing it which raises questions about how these women are experiencing the painting. Are they seeing it through modern cultural lenses? How does it make them feel?  Would women of the 19th century feel differently about it than than women of today?     To Be Continued.......This ends the first part of this trip through art-time.

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Feminine Delights

Gerda Wegener (1886-1940) was a Danish illustrator and painter who is best known for her erotica which often depicted sex between women. When one looks beyond the explicit sexual content one can see a significant body of work that focuses on other aspects of feminine pleasure -  music, dance, fashion, romance, and companionship.  Gerda and her husband Einar Wegener (also an artist) were the subject of a recent motion picture The Danish Girl (2015). Alicia Amanda Vikander, who portrayed Gerda, won the Academy award for Best Supporting Actress.   (The explicit images start near the end of the post.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         A self portrait   Gerda with her husband Einar Wegener (later Lili Elbe)    

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Exotic Ecstasies

Felix D’Eon is a gay Mexican artist who re-imagines history through a same-sex filter and captures romance in a style that appears authentically historic.  His work exudes a joyfulness and playfulness that invites the viewer to  re-imagine history along with him.   "I view it all as form of propaganda, a tool to normalize something that has been seen as deviant and outlaw for so long, and to capture a language of love and nostalgia for the gay community that has always been denied us."  Reclaiming Gay History With Felix D’Eon  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wes-hurley/post_9728_b_7777282.html Felix D'Eon website:  http://felixdeon.com                                                                         Edited to add some new art I've come across:            

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Art Deco Sensuality

Louis Icart  (1888 - 1950) was a French painter who reached his peak of popularity in the late 1920s in Europe and America and his work was seen as synonymous with the Art Deco movement. He painted beautiful young women in sensual, erotic poses, sometimes with other women, often with an implication of same-sex sexuality. His women wore glamorous clothing and were often shown with exotic and beautiful animals - horses, cats, dogs and birds which suggested an intimate playfulness.                                                                                           

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Stylish Erotica

George Barbier (1882-1932) was a renowned French illustrator and fashion designer for theatre and ballet productions. Many of his illustrations have an element of same-sex desire between women, sometimes subtle, other times explicit. Examples of the later include his illustrations for the books Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Les Chansons de Bilitis, a collection of erotic lesbian poetry by Pierre Louys. Barbier's romantic figures are sometimes sexually ambiguous, for example and one can envision a woman dressed as a man in Le Feu (below).   Barbier's work seems to me to be aimed not at men, the usual audience for lesbian erotica, but instead at women primarily, as it is infused with fashion, style, elegance and sensuality. There is also a not so subtle dismissal of men as worthy romantic partners in some of his work including "Visez Au Couer Belles Dames (Aim for the Heart Beautiful Ladies) and Les Marionnettes.   Sheherazade     From Les Liaisons Dangereuses       Les Marionnettes                                 From Les Liaisons Dangereuses       From Les Liaisons Dangereuses       From Les Chansons de Bilitis     References:   George Barbier https://en.wikipedia.../George_Barbier   The Songs of Bilitis https://en.wikipedia...ongs_of_Bilitis   George Barbier collection at House of Retro - see this blog for more beautiful illustrations (unfortunately I can only display 10 images per post here) http://houseofretro.com/index.php/2014/08/12/georges-barbier-reflections-of-art-deco/

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Senserotic Art

I just discovered the art of Lisa Yuskavage the other day while image browsing (a pleasurable, but very addictive habit). I felt an instant attraction to her style, and quickly binged-browsed for other works by her. Her style and subject matter is an interesting blend of sensuality, affection, and eroticism that I feel playfully captures the unique beauty of love between women.     Anna on Top - 2006     Crawling Out - 2014       The Aristocrats - 2007     Drag - 2007         Piggyback Ride - 2009       Grooming - 2003     Mutualism - 2006       Greengrapes - 2007     Teresa and Lauren - 2008       Lisa in her studio       References:   http://www.yuskavage.com   Lisa Yuskavage – Upstaging Masculinity and Speaking With the Power of Pretty. Kristeva, Lacan and an Aside That Changes Everything http://blog.seattlep...ower-of-pretty/   The Overwhelmer: An Interview with Lisa Yuskavage http://bordercrossin...-lisa-yuskavage   Lisa Yuskavage Quotes http://www.azquotes....-Lisa_Yuskavage

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Women In Boats - Gallery 2

This is a continuation of the previous post. These are images of women from a different time and world who have traveled by boat to a private place where they can be themselves, relax, bathe, and perhaps enjoy intimacy.   Edward Cucuel (American 1875-1954) - At the Waters Edge   Edward Cucuel - The Bathing Hour     Leo Putz (German 1869-1940) - On the Steep Bank     Edward Cucuel - Two Ladies Boating     Anders Zorn (Swedish 1860-1920) - The Rowing Boat     Anders Zorn - Out [1888]     Claude Monet (French 1840-1926) - Girls in a Boat   Paul Gustave Fischer (Danish 1860-1934) - On the Beach     Paul Gustave Fischer - On the Beach (?)   Hans Dahl (Norwegian 1849-1937) - A Summer's Day

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Women In Boats - Gallery 1

These paintings are some extras that I found while researching for my blog post Women Afloat, in my A Mug of Fluidity blog. They all share to some degree the theme of women escaping into nature by themselves or with other women. Image yourself in their place, in their time when getting away from duty and home must have felt so liberating and exhilarating.   Imagine warm sunshine tempered by a soft breeze or protective shade from majestic trees. Imagine the thrill of taking off ones clothing and feeling the sun or breeze or cool water directly over your whole body. Imagine feeling beautiful while naked in the presence of another who feels the same way about herself.   Thomas Brooks (English, 1818-1891) Thames Lilies     Henry John Yeend King (British, 1855-1924) Two Ladies Punting on the River detail     Alexander Averin (Russian, 1952-) - In the Rowboat     Edward Cucuel (American, 1875-1954) - Summer Reflections     Edward Cucuel (American, 1875-1954) - Summer Boat Ride     Edward Cucel (American, 1875-1954) - The Bathing Place     Harold Slott Moller (Danish) - Girls in a Green Rowing Boat on a Summer Day     Alexander Averin (Russian, 1952 - ) - Two Women on a Boat     Mathias J. Alten - Three Women in a Rowboat, 1934     John Whorf (American, 1903-1959) - Two Women in a Rowboat

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