Women in the Picture
What Culture Does with Female Bodies
by Catherine McCormack
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 16 Nov 2021 | Archive Date 31 Oct 2021
Art historian Catherine McCormack challenges how culture teaches us to see and value women, their bodies, and their lives.
Cultural archetypes have long been used to subjugate women, binding them within the restrictive roles of Venus, bride, wife, mother, and monster. These portrayals echo throughout the paintings and sculptures of western art—Titian, Botticelli, and Giambologna—and more contemporaneously in fashion photographs, ads, and across social media. By society empowering men to represent women, women imbibe a distorted vision of themselves and their bodies, coming up against notions of impossible beauty, idealized passivity and violence, and horrifying Medusas.
In this impassioned work, art historian Catherine McCormack evaluates the production and display of portrayals of women, exposing the underlying meanings, whether overt or symbolic. She counters them by turning to women artists like Berthe Morisot, Beyoncé, Suzanne Lacy, and Faith Ringgold. These women have been overturning confining depictions of identity, sexuality, race, and power to explore the breadth and multiplicity of women’s visions of their own lives.
About the Author: Catherine McCormack is author of The Art of Looking Up, as well as curator and lecturer in historic and contemporary art history. She is the founder and course director of the Women and Art study program at Sotheby's Institute of Art and lives in London.
"Catherine McCormack offers a call to arms in a world where the misogyny that taints much of the western art canon is still largely ignored by mainstream critics and institutions, as well as the general public." - Rachel Spence, Financial Times (UK)
"I’m glad this book was written because it felt like the scales were falling from my eyes as I read it." - Jan Patience, The Herald
"Women in the Picture is the art book we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the first book to give the reader a fresh and vibrant look at the history of art, through the lenses of gender, intersectionality, and contemporary pop culture. Essential reading for anyone interested in this subject, it’s gripping, inspirational, beautifully written and highly thought-provoking." - Dr. Helen Gorrill, author of Women Can't Paint
"McCormack succeeds in the nearly impossible task of discussing both the representation of women throughout the history of art as well as how women artists have challenged these male-centric images. She writes beautifully and with an accessible voice, moving effortlessly from the Rokeby Venus to contemporary culture's narcissistic obsession with social media selfies. A wide range of readers will benefit from her synthesis of thousands of years of art about the female body and how this has impacted and occluded our understanding of women's experience." - Kathy Battista, author of New York New Wave
"I loved Catherine McCormack’s terrifically smart and sometimes scathing Women in the Picture. On this grand tour of western visual culture from Botticelli to Beyoncé, virtuous mothers to monstrous women, from Lilith to I Love Dick, you couldn’t ask for a better guide than McCormack, an art historian with attitude who offers a rousing new lens for looking ‘beyond the exchange of seeing and being seen.'" - Bridget Quinn, author of Broad Strokes