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Becoming Artists: Self-Portraits, Friendship Images and Studio Scenes by Nordic Women Painters in the 1880s
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture and Aesthetics.
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this dissertation is to analyze how Nordic women artists negotiated their professional identity in painting in the 1880s, focusing on the genres of the self-portrait, the friendship image and the studio interior. It investigates how artistic identity is fashioned through self-representation, collaboration with a colleague and in interaction with the interior of the studio as a constitutive space of artistic professionalism. The dissertation asks how women artists positioned themselves in relation to the narrative that constituted the idea of the artist, how they adopted its visual tropes and eventually subverted them by offering alternative modes of representation in painting. Through three chapters, the dissertation combines the in-depth analysis of selected paintings with the examination of comprehensive archival sources, in particular the artists’ correspondence. Combining feminist theory with a performative and object-based approach, this dissertation introduces emulation, collaboration and appropriation as key strategies of the artists’ self-fashioning in painting.

The first chapter examines Julia Beck’s self-promotional strategies, studying her self-portrait from 1880 and the emulative strategies by means of which she inscribed herself into the history of her profession. The analysis of the painting’s object history allows for a reconsideration of Beck’s transnational career in France and Sweden.

Studying the friendship images of Jeanna Bauck and Bertha Wegmann and their epistolary exchange with Hildegard Thorell, the second chapter investigates the impact of community, companionship and collaboration on the artists’ careers. It introduces the friendship image as a genre category through which artists fashioned their selves in collaboration and explored a shared artistic identity in painting. When public perceptions of intimate same-sex friendships changed considerably, the artists engaged in long-term partnerships that defy any simple categorization. Such queer companionships enabled women professionals to pursue their careers in a relatively unimpeded manner. The analysis of the collaborative artistic practices of Bauck and Wegmann offers an alternative approach to authorship as mediated and dialogical, problematizing art history’s still ubiquitous focus on the individual artist and oeuvre.

The final chapter inquires the function of the studio in Nordic women painters’ (mediated) self-representation, exploring the charged juxtaposition of figure and space in selected studio scenes. Long before Virginia Woolf coined the phrase of “a room of one’s own”, Nordic women painters appropriated the studio space as a site of professional self-fulfillment and artistic self-staging. The liminal position of the studio as a hybrid space between the public and the private is examined, offering new insights into women’s transgressions of the supposedly separate spheres. As a transitional space, the studio facilitated women artists’ appropriation and renegotiation of the idea of the artist. It is argued that Hanna Hirsch-Pauli and Venny Soldan-Brofeldt employed the genre of the friendship image to stage a paragone between painting and sculpture in their studio in Paris, whereas Eva Bonnier alluded to the myth of Pygmalion in an interior in which dramatic light effects render her sculpture alive. Asta Nørregaard’s self-portrait from 1883 is read as a self-conscious appropriation of the romantic ideal of the artist as a solitary genius.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gothenburg: Makadam Förlag, 2021. , p. 447
Keywords [en]
Nordic art, nineteenth-century art, women artists, self-portrait, portraiture, friendship, studio, collaboration, emulation, letters, epistolary, self-fashioning, feminist art history, Opponents, Salon, Julia Beck, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, Bertha Wegmann
National Category
Art History
Research subject
Art History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-190152ISBN: 978-91-7061-354-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7061-854-3 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-190152DiVA, id: diva2:1526796
Public defence
2021-06-04, Auditorium (215), Manne Siegbahnhusen, Frescativägen 24, online via Zoom, public link is available at the department website, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2021-05-11 Created: 2021-02-08 Last updated: 2022-02-25Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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