The Nature Of Women And Art

There is an undeniable connection between art and women portrayed in natural surroundings, as three particular paintings exceedingly point out.

Women and nature have always been vastly intertwined. Thus a plethora of artworks throughout time have depicted women and nature as inherently unified. A faultless example of this universal trend can be seen in French artist Henri Rousseau's The Dream; a multifaceted yet simple work of art which epitomizes the indissoluble bond between women and nature. Other delineations of this affinity include Fran├žois Boucher's Washerwomen and Camille Pissarro's Two Young Peasant Women.

Henri Rousseau's mysterious dreamlike features had a decidedly influential effect on the ensuing Surrealist movement. In fact, Picasso himself was a great admirer of Rousseau's work and his meticulous attention to detail. Rousseau's painting, The Dream, which is currently on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is laden with patterns depicting how women in a natural setting emanate a distinct sensation of harmony and oneness. Painted in 1910, shortly before Rousseau's death, The Dream was based almost solely on photographs Rousseau had studied; he had never seen an actual jungle in real life. This could possibly account for the exaggerated dimensions of the flowers and leaves that engulf the painting's subject. However, it could conversely be considered a deliberate attempt on the part of the artist to express the profound connection that exists between woman and nature.

The most vibrant elements of nature; the foliage, the fruit, the birds and the animals, encircle the woman and her pastel nudity, yet she remains remarkably inconspicuous. There is another, even more inconspicuous female in the painting as well; an African American woman dutifully playing a wind instrument. This woman is almost completely camouflaged by her natural surroundings and her facial features are virtually indistinguishable. This is in direct contrast with the intricately detailed, brighter vision of the Caucasian woman on the red sofa, yet both images depict an undeniable harmony with the women's feral surroundings.

Frenchman Fran├žois Boucher's paintings possess a quality that can only be characterized as communicative. They extract qualities from the physical forces of nature without surrendering to external influence. While his style remained doggedly picturesque throughout his career, the pictorial character of his works was especially evident in his 1768 oil painting entitled Washerwomen.

This magnificent work is currently displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The women portrayed here are washing laundry in the river, underneath a vast and dingy sky. The only spots that the color red, or any vibrant color for that matter is used are in the clothing of a child and that of a woman holding a child. The splotches of red represent vibrancy and life. Thus, like the woman in Rousseau's painting, this is reflective of women's intimate relationship with nature based on their capacity to procreate. Above all, the artist relies heavily on dismal colors in an attempt to directly contrast the intensity of new life represented by the scarcely used splotches of red.

Whereas Boucher was generally more intrigued by the female form than landscapes or nature, Washerwomen is a striking combination of both. Most significantly, the painting manages to articulate the inherent symphonic relationship that exists between the two entities.

Camille Pissarro also portrayed women and nature as a virtually singular entity, but his work tended to center more on a rural atmosphere. Pissarro's 1892 painting, Two Young Peasant Women, which is just one work in a series of "Peasant Women" paintings, is laden with the quiet serenity that Pissarro perpetually sought to portray. The fresh impressions of the unblemished country life calmed him, and in this particular painting, his tranquility is depicted through his subtle use of colors, as well as the thoughtful expressions he has drawn onto the faces of the two peasant women.

Similarly, the landscape that stretches out behind the central subjects is created directly from the harmony of nature, acting almost as a visual echo of the mild sunlight shining overhead. It is almost as if Pissarro sacrificed the uniqueness of the trees and other aspects of nature in exchange for securing the harmony of the image as a whole. The systematic array of the trees and crops act almost as a border which contains the serenity of this pleasurable setting within its rigid boundaries.

The influence of Claude Monet's short, quick brushwork on Pissarro's work is undeniable. The flickering sunlight, for example, is liberated by Pissarro's rapid brush strokes, as is the coarse texture of the grass and the harvested land. This is especially true where a radiant fringe of sunlight emerges from the top and sides of the images. It is obvious to the beholder that Pissarro based this painting on direct observations of the visible world, unlike Boucher, who clipped his images from magazines. By focusing not on conceptions, conventional images or memories, but instead on real subjects and real landscapes, Pissarro had an enormous impact on the intentions of art in his time, and many years afterward. In fact, his style eventually became a paramount focal point for Impressionist artists. Two Peasant Women is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it continues to invoke sentiments of quietude in all who observe its subtle significance.

As can be seen from the three paintings discussed here, as well as a myriad of other works throughout our world's artistic history, the subjects of women and nature can be as realistic as they are symbolic. The infinite bond between the subject and its surroundings, whether contextually probable or not, is apparent in all of these works, as is the manner in which the spectrum of color is used to portray this intrinsic harmony. Rousseau, Boucher and Pissarro all exhibit the capacity to use color, light, texture and other basic artistic elements to convey the most stimulating qualities of significance.

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