Friday, June 15, 2012

The Female Malady

Alexa Wilding, 1877, Dante Rossetti

“A woman, generally single, or in some way not in a condition for performing her reproductive function, having suffered from some real or imagined trouble, or having passed through a phase of hypochondriasis of sexual character, and often being of a highly nervous stock, becomes the interesting invalid. She is surrounded by good and generally religious and sympathetic friends. She is pampered in every way. She may have lost her voice or the power of a limb. These temporary paralyses often pass of suddenly with a new doctor or a new drug; but, as a rule, they are replaced by some new neurosis. In the end, the patient becomes bedridden, often refuses her food, or is capricious about it, taking strange things at odd times, or pretending to starve. Masturbation is not uncommon. The body wastes, and the face has a thin anxious look, not unlike that represented by Rossetti in many of his pictures of women. There is a hungry look about them which is striking.”

Dr. George Savage, Insanity and Allied Neuroses (1884)

Savage’s description of the female neurasthenic incorporates some of the sexual stereotypes of the hysteric. (Taken from Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady, 1987)

Sketch of Elizabeth Siddal, 1860, Dante Rossetti

Seated Elizabeth Siddal, c. 1861 (?), Dante Rossetti

Elizabeth Siddal plaiting her hair, c. 1861 (?), Dante Rossetti

As an undergrad, in my final year, for my history and art history joint major, I took a module called "Madness & Civilization". It was consistently fascinating, and the required reading list presented to me The Female Malady by Elaine Showalter. I was reading it on and off for months, underlining, bookmarking and dog earing many pages. One of the sections that really stuck with me was the one above. As a student of nineteenth-century art history, the association with the Pre-Raphaelites and their romaniticisation of what was generally considered a feminine illness (hysteria, derives from the Greek 'hystera'; womb) fascinated me. The languid subjects of Rossetti (and indeed the Pre Raphaelite's body of work) belies conventional interpretation.
Mary Magdalene, 1877, Dante Gabriel Rossetti
"There is a hungry look about them which is striking."

In an Artist's Studio, Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)
One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel -- every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

This poem seems to be inspired by Christina’s observations of her brother’s relationship with Elizabeth Siddal, who is the focus of many of his paintings (and most particularly his sketches, as detailed above). In reading this poem above, and reading Dinah Roe's analysis, the artist, in common with the Victorian psychiatrist, his model (patient) is present at the mercy of his creativity. Their relationship is parasitic, the muse inspires thus supplying his art, and thence, pays his bills. Similarly for the psychiatrist, young women's (under the guise of anonymity) nervous conditions were interpreted as the (male) psychiatrist saw fit. This inclination can be seen in the case of Jean-Martin Charcot's photographs of female patients suffering from a variety of neuroses in Salpêtrière Psychiatric Hospital in Paris. Framing these works in a female-historical context, the romantic notion of "tragic beauties" takes on a new interpretation. Their feminine beauty is captured by the brush and pen, permanently recorded, but by the same stroke, this beauty is fleeting, it is the artist/psychiatrist who takes the credit for (literally and metaphorically) capturing their beauty. Their male creativity is celebrated, while the muse seems to lose their sense of self through this relationship, the ennui of their gender role (the expectation of the "Angel in the House") can be seen in the vacant expressions (sometimes described as "sensual") of the subjects above. Behind the romantic facade, for Elizabeth Siddal or in the cases of "Augustine" and "Dora", the consequence, or outcome, was total annihilation of self.

Elizabeth Siddal, 1860s, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Some articles of interest...
Rossetti’s Other Women: The silent contribution of models and muses
Dinah Roe's analysis of Christina Rossetti's In an Artist's Studio (Part 2 of 3)
Curator Pamela Gerrish Nunn on the forgotten Pre-Raphaelite Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale
A Pre-Raphaelite Journey: Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Postcards giveaway!

The gallery I'm based at the moment is having a super giveaway on twitter to celebrate Yeats Day 2012 (more on that later)! Once we reach 3,000 follows we are gifting the lucky 3,000th follower with a selection of our Jack. B Yeats postcards, a brand new arrival in our bookshop. The featured paintings have been carefully selected from our collection here, and if you're not familiar with his work, this may serve as a nice introduction.

Its also worth following because you're showing your support for a small regional museum, as well as keeping up to date with events taking place in the North West of Ireland.

A sneaky preview of the postcards, we're giving away a set of six.

Click above to follow

Also, I noticed that I'm almost at 200 followers, it has taken a while but some of the feedback & comments I have received over the past two years make the small scale blogging experience worthwhile! You know who you are, and thank you.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Stealing Beauty Revisited

A little over two years ago, when I first started this blog, I posted about one of my quintessential summer films, Stealing Beauty. You know those films that the mood takes you to watch only at certain times throughout the year? When June approaches, I find myself thinking about this film, prompting me to seek out my DVD copy and thus daydream the afternoon away.

I've finally gotten around to screencapping the whole film. Too many beautiful shots of Liv Tyler, the Tuscan countryside and crumbling Italian architecture, only a fraction of which I've included below. I wouldn't be surprised if Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris, The Dreamers) constructed this coming-of-age story solely around the youthful Liv Tyler, she is in practically every scene, and the subject of many, many close-ups.

Click on the images to enlarge them, more on my flickr. I have also uploaded 700+ screencaps here (remove xx). Please credit me if using. I am working on a slow connection so please be patient while I upload different parts of the film.

Other films I have screencapped or profiled:
Life without Zoe (1989)
Mysterious Skin (2004)
Wuthering Heights (2011)
The Red Shoes (1948)
Badlands (1973)
Dazed and Confused (1993)

Monday, June 4, 2012

A month of instagram #2

I'm hooked on instagram. No pictures of coffees ahead.

L-R, from top:

1. Going to see Tiny Furniture, finally!
2. Letters to reply to, from 3 different continents
3. Part of my duties at my internship, is closing up the galleries at night, abandoned galleries are eerie in the evenings
4. Townes van Zandt matched my mood that weekend
5. Orange nails & Liberty x Morris print kindle cover on the Sligo-Dublin bus
6. Grass stains from making daisy chains
7. The weather was glorious last week in Sligo (Calry Church spire, The Mall)
8. Dinner with an old teacher and friend, discussing art & Venice
9. That mysterious house on the hill (The Mall, Sligo)
10. New favourite drinks combination, thanks Tricia!

You can follow me, I'm illbeyourmirror.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Grainy memories

I got a disposable camera developed a few months ago, and doing some tidying up, or moving stuff around my room, I found some other pictures from my undergrad years that made me "aww", so I scanned them in and shared them with the appropriate people and now I'm sharing them with you, internet, because its a bank holiday weekend and I have no plans.

Exhibit one: Internet friends become real life friends.
Katypapertalk & I

Bethany (of the Arched Eyebow) & I

Kimmage, A Good Friday party, 2010 (I'll keep you guessing on that one, but it did not include prayers). This was around the time the Florence Welch comparisons started.

The living-in-student-residences days. A mock Come Dine with Me party, 2010. Tara & I, and a delicious desert.

Rathmines, 2010. I think there was absinthe involved.

Rathmines, 2010. Ironic charity shop shirts, and when Seán was still a social smoker. Naughty.

Soho, November 2011. Maison Bertaux. A hairer, sexier Seán. No dairy.

Sometime in early 2010, Sligo. Accurately surmises my relationship with my younger brother. Mutual ribbing. (He fights back now, btw).