womens presentation in realism and impressionism

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Discuss and comment on the representation of women in Realist and/or Impressionist painting.

        In both impressionist and realist art, we mainly see women presented as either working and doing chores, for example ‘The Gleaners’ by Millet and ‘Woman hanging up the washing’ by Pissarro, or relaxing, often in front of mirrors or bathing, for example ‘Lady at her toilette’ by Morisot and ‘Nude before a mirror’ by Sickert. Women impressionist painters, such as Berthe Morisot, especially focused on the painting of women because at the time, women were not expected to be alone in a room with a man other than their husbands, so the subjects they could paint were limited. Some impressionist painters focused on the painting of women for a period of time, such as Sickert, who from 1905, paid special interest to the painting of nudes.

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Camille Pissarro’s painting ‘Woman hanging up the washing’, presents a very typical image of women, especially for the times. She is doing chores and along with this, while she does them there is a child near her, we assume it is her child or one that she is looking after. The subject has not been glamorised in any way. She is wearing dull, ordinary clothes and doing common work, although the background is quite lush, suggesting she could be a maid of some sort. Most paintings depicting women doing work have similar ideas to ‘Woman hanging up the washing’, ...

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