I walked into the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art exhibition, Painting Women: Works from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with the expectation that the artwork of women would be equal to that of men. I didn’t expect to be so moved by the differences between the two.
There are 34 paintings on display in the Bellagio Gallery, the majority painted by women during and since the 18th century.
If you are like me and haven’t been to an exhibition where the artists shown are predominantly women, what you will notice is that themes or patterns emerge.
Many of the paintings are portraits and the outward gaze of the subjects seems at first soft, but is more compelling the longer you look. This is especially true of Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun’s, Portrait of a Young Woman, and Ellen Day Hale’s, Self-Portrait.
The subject matter of the paintings is often contemplative in nature, portraying people gazing at something or staring into the distance lost in thought. You find yourself drawn into the contemplation. “At what was she looking?” “What was she thinking?” “What was happening in her life at that moment?”
Because so many of the paintings are portraits, they capture the dress, hairstyles and surroundings in a pronounced sort of way. The result is a display of fine detail, but with a softer effect.
I left the gallery with respect for the women who overcame all obstacles to become painters and for the way their gender influenced the art they created.