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Word Count: 693
Gender and Genre in Impressionist Portraiture In the nineteenth century the portrait form explored and celebrated the individual as a unique and dynamic identity By isolating a person on the canvas the artist recognized him as a subject with a character and will of his own Genre on the other hand was the painting of social scene a sketch of the modern metropolis where characters represent static social types rather than unique personalities Tamar Garrs lecture gave a fascinating account of how the Impressionist artists used portraiture and genre to construct and comment on the process of constructing individual identity in relation to social expectations In the nineteenth century it was widely held amongst the artistic community that only certain individuals could be painted in portrait - namely bourgeois artistic or aristocratic men - as only they could be understood as dynamic subjects with a sense of their own unique identity Consider Pissaros portrait of Cezanne a rustic character built up through minor detail the fragment of a radical newspaper in the background the torn peasant clothes the size of Cezannes body overpowering the canvas Or portraits of bourgeois factory owners dressed in expensive suits and assertively facing the viewer head on These are representations of men able to act and think independently In comparison are the fragments of social scenes typified in Manets Music Hall 1862 or The Tuilleries 1873-4 where characters fit within a wider social panorama not examined as individuals in their own right Of course such distinctions between individuals and social types were closely related to gender and the representation of women At the risk of reciting a clich women were beautified objects in nineteenth century art possessing no subjectivity to be understood or explored Women were often painted indoors behind net curtains or as a diminutive part of the painting Renoirs Woman at Embroidery Frame captures this division between the idealized stasis of women and
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