The modem period in history can be characterized as a time of changes in human thought and economic life. The remarkable features of this time were education at all levels, new labor relations, and new production modes. Women writers and artists received a chance to speak about their problems and grievances, hopes, and ideas often omitted by their male counterparts. Thesis I am arguing that women writers and artists of the modern period speak about social and personal problems from the feminist point of view and unveil such themes as gender equality, lesbian and free love, adulteress, and sexuality.
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The uniqueness of themes and feelings expressed by modern women artists is that they describe wishes and emotions kept secret for many centuries. Their works are unique because the authors depict events, experience, memories through different frames which are connected with each other (Matthews and Platt 560, 562). For instance, Frida Kahlo and Mary Cassatt are real feminists who fight for equal rights with men and respect. In their paintings, they portray a new social order and political ideas dominated in society. The most popular paintings of Frida Kahlo are The Two Fridas (1939), The Broken Column (1944), Self Portrait (1941). These paintings unveil feminist ideas and self-identity popularized and promulgated by women artists. The Two Fridas depict two Fridas in different dressing (a traditional and a wedding dress). The feminist idea is that instead of depicting a man, which is more natural for a wedding ceremony, Kahlo depicts another woman. This can be interpreted as a rejection of patriarchy and male dominance in society. The Broken Column demonstrates the self-identity of a woman and her inner strength. In this painting, Kahlo states that the female is strong enough to oppose the world and protect herself from cruelty, violence, and oppression, keeping natural beauty and feminine features.
From women writers and artists, we can learn about the hopes and ideals of women, their attitude towards family and lust. For instance, Mary Cassatt is one of those artists who unveil the importance of a happy family and children in the life of every Woman (Her most famous paintings are Portrait of a Little Girl and Children on Shore) (Mathews, p. 32). We know from these women that family structure and new social changes help women to obtain an equal position with men. For instance, in Mother and Child, she portrays human sympathy and care, beauty and tenderness typical for every mother. The uniqueness of Mary Cassatt’s style is that she depicts the natural desires and values of women, women, and their hopes. In Modern Woman, Cassatt idealizes femininity portraying females as independent members of society. Cassatt depicts that women are in their choices. Modern Woman depicts a young woman reading a newspaper. The feminist idea is that women become educated and politically conscious; they are interested in public affairs and review recent news (similar to men). The women have a vivid imagination and romantic nature but do not show it because of strict morals. Cultural changes and education opportunities inspire many women to receive high-quality education and earn for living. So, modern life should not block women’s creativity and talent, and writers work with the masculine and feminine side of the brain.
Still, as for the majority of women all this is a bit surplus. They most surely turn to part-time employment reproved by lower grading and pay. The women state that historically, distinct gender roles were clearly established, although there was a change toward a greater appreciation for the work performed by women (Matthews and Platt, p. 582). Similar to Kahlo, Virginia Woolf speaks about social oppression of women and their human rights. In such works as A Room of One’s Own Virginia Woolf writes that ‘modern’ Woman is still suppressed by socioeconomic factors including poverty and lack of privacy (Stockton, p. 321). The only thing a woman needs is “a room of one’s own”. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” (Woolf, p. 3). These ideas underline desire of women to be independent and equal to men. As the most important, women speak about the theme of adulteress in marriage often omitted by men. For instance, in most of her paintings Frida is depicted along. Some of her paintings reflect her true feelings towards sex unveiling desperation and great sorrow. In their works, women state that only a true love helps them to survive and work. The main idea of this theme is that love affairs influence their style of life and world perception. Women alternate between moods of activity, optimism, power and passive states of contemplation and despondency (Mathews, p. 64).
In sum, the modern period gives new opportunities for women to express themselves and speak about secret wishes and ideals. The main debates concern gender roles and changes which affected the community. In contrast to male artists, women underline that a gender undergoes metamorphoses in much the same way that the nation itself has grown. These women make progress toward new vision of gender and sexuality, freedom and equal status in society.
- Mathews, N. M. Mary Cassatt: A Life, Yale University Press, 1998.
- Matthews, R., Platt, D. The Western Humanities, The Renaissance to the Present Volume II, McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 5 edition, 2003.
- Stockton, Ch. Virginia Woolf and the Renaissance: The Promise of Capital and the Violence of Materialism. CLIO 24 (1995): 231.
- Woolf, V. A Room of One’s Own. G. K. Hall & Company; Largeprint edition, 1999.