Painting the Difference: Sex and Spectator in Modern Art

Overview

"The picture plane of a painting creates boundaries and perspectives. It governs the relationship of daubs of pigment on a canvas to reality, allowing the viewer to connect with the imagined world of a work of art. Charles Harrison's latest endeavor, Painting the Difference, explores the role of the picture plane in modern painting and the relationships it creates among the artist, the subject, and the spectator. Harrison here offers a bold interpretation of the Modernist canon that uncovers the significance of gender to the functioning of the
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Overview

"The picture plane of a painting creates boundaries and perspectives. It governs the relationship of daubs of pigment on a canvas to reality, allowing the viewer to connect with the imagined world of a work of art. Charles Harrison's latest endeavor, Painting the Difference, explores the role of the picture plane in modern painting and the relationships it creates among the artist, the subject, and the spectator. Harrison here offers a bold interpretation of the Modernist canon that uncovers the significance of gender to the functioning of the picture plane." Arguing that the representation of women in art was crucial to the character of modernity, Harrison traces the history of female subjects as they began to gaze out of the picture to confront and engage their viewers. Painting the Difference deciphers the implications of sexual difference for the development of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art. Harrison shows how artists, reflecting the underlying anxieties of the time about gender, used female subjects' gazes both to create a sexualized relationship between these subjects and their viewers and to simultaneously question that relationship.
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Editorial Reviews

Paul Smith

"Painting the Difference puts forward a novel theory of the evolution of certain key works in the Modernist canon. This highly original book will be of keen interest to art history, cultural studies, and gender studies. A model of lucidity, and direct in its treatment of a difficult topic, Painting the Difference advances a bold theory of modern art of considerable relevance and importance."
Art News - Patricia Failing

Painting the Difference complicates routine assumptions about the sexism of male artists and viewers, and raises useful questions about the history of seeing.”
Woman's Art Journal - Britta C. Dwyer

“Taken together these chapters serve to demonstrate how careful looking can provide new insight into the making and meaning of iconic works. Conceptually challenging and rich in detail, this is an attractive volume with a generous number of illustrations, both in color and black and white, that help to support the author's claims and argument.”
Modernism/modernity - Gregg M. Horowitz

"Painting the Difference offers a gripping interpretation of nineteenth- and twentieth-century images, mostly paintings, mostly of women. The artists Harrison discusses are modernist icons: Renoir, Manet, Cézanne, Degas, Morisot, Cassatt, Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard, and Rothko. But he brings these canonical painters into entirely fresh focus by showing how their techniques develop from a driving concern with the question of just who is seeing what paintings reveal. Harrison's central claim is that this self-consciousness arises from a sustained confrontation with the social domination at work in the male regard, including the painter's regard, that shapes the appearance of women's bodies in modern life."
Les Cahiers - Véronique Goudinoux

“The strength of [Harrison’s] approach is not to reduce the reality of sexual difference to an iconographic or socio-historic question, but to treat it on the very surface of painting, through the devices it invents and the complex games it suggests to the viewer.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226317984
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Harrison is professor of the history and theory of art at the Open University, UK. He is coeditor of Art in Theory and the author of numerous books, including Essays on Art & Language and Conceptual Art and Painting. He is a major contributor to the Modern Art Practices and Debates series and to the four-volume series Art of the Twentieth Century.

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Table of Contents

1 The picture plane 3

2 Renoir 27

3 Manet 41

4 Cezanne 61

5 Degas, part one 87

6 Degas, part two 105

7 Morisot and Cassatt : "a woman's painting" 127

8 The early twentieth century 149

9 Picasso 163

10 Matisse and Bonnard : "painting the emotions" 183

11 Rothko 209

12 The later twentieth century 233

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