Two exhibitions are taking place in parallel in Paris at the moment. One at the Museum of Romantic Life offers a contemplation of representations of the figure of the heroine in the first half of the 19th century. The other at the Petit Palais offers a retrospective of the work of Boldin i, a painter who deserves to be known as his work goes beyond - and is much more subtle than - the series of society portraits of rich heiresses and elegant ladies in ball gowns at the end of the century.
I saw them in quick succession and was struck again by the unenviable fate that the 19th century reserved for representations of women in Art. This 19th century woman only achieved the status of heroine in a sacrificial salvation, at the cost of her life, her reason or her freedom. 50 years later, at the dawn of the 20th century, she is on the contrary celebrated for her body, her beauty and what she offers that is entertaining and pleasing to the eye.
At the beginning of the century, she was only respectable to the extent that she remained unattainable, ethereal and pure (therefore no other outcome than death, the convent or oblivion like the Héloïses, Desdemona, Antigone and another Juliette...). We can also see in this exhibition and the various works chosen the predominance of white, veil, muslin and evanescent transparencies in the clothes worn by these famous heroines promised to a destiny of renunciation and sacrifice.
At the dawn of the 20th century, it was no longer respected but displayed, confined to the field of fashion, consumed visually, with a touch of contempt and cruelty, in the gallery of portraits of these women of the world who compete in adornment and ornaments.
It seems as if the passage through the century offers no progression, no benevolence and twists the image of women, objects of fantasies or caricatures, as it pleases. Even if he does it with talent and artistic prowess at times. And of course we cannot limit the representations of women in the 19th century to these two extremes...
Between these two worlds, these two eras, there was very fortunately Berthe Morisot and the emotion that she gives us to see, capturing the melancholy of these destinies of women locked in their representations. There was Camille Claudel, shouting rage and excess in her eventful and brilliant works.