Thursday, November 3, 2011

Degas & The Nude

One concept that really stood out at me at Degas's exhibit was his portrayal of women in uncomfortable positions. Degas's After the Bath (Woman Drying Herself), pictured above, conveyed to me the relationship of women to society at the time. To bathe is a personal activity generally meant for cleansing and renewal, but in this painting, the woman is clearly struggling, and does not appear to be enjoying this activity at all. I cannot tell if Degas meant to establish whether or not the woman knew she was being watched, but her discomfort is obvious and symbolizes the discomfort experienced in a woman's daily life.

Berger discusses the idea of presence in men and women and how they are presented through either their exterior or interior beings. Throughout Degas's exhibit, it is evident that women were inferior to men, and could only establish presence when bared to nothing but skin. A woman's presence was depicted through physical essence and everything that her body represented emotionally and psychologically. A man's presence, however, was depicted through the physical female body. In other words, the nude woman was not there to portray just herself, but was there to serve "her man," and her presence represented only who she was in relation to this man. Without the man present in the painting, one had to assume the spectator was male...just had to.

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