Gallery full of nuances

The Museum of Romantic Life in Paris takes a critical and constructive look at the representation of women in the Romantic movement.

Should we take a fresh look at the Romantic artistic movement of the nineteenth century?e a hundred years? Based on a hundred different works of painting, literature, and the performing arts, the curators of the exhibition currently underway at the Musée du Lièt Romantice in Paris specifically question the representation of women in art – and invite us to do the same.

Romance: A Female Tragedy

Romance is the art of dying of love – nothing more, nothing less! Or rather, kill the women of love. “The death of a beautiful woman is without a doubt the most poetic subject in the world.”until Edgar Allan Poe wrote in The genesis of a poem. This short sentence, which one might consider truly scandalous, nonetheless sums up the romance of the nineteenth century well.e Century, skillfully deciphered in the Romantic Heroine Show.

But how nineteene Century comes aesthetic to the death of a woman? In the context of political and social instability – successive revolutions, return… – the movement emerged driven by drama. Thus, romantic works were characterized by a great interest in expressing feelings, especially love, embodying tragic scenes in which women find themselves distinguished martyrs.

Thus the romantic artists, mostly male, restored the great female figures, both historical and fictional: Joan of Arc, Mary Stuart, but also Lady Macbeth of Shakespeare or Esmeralda of Victor Hugo, for example, inspired the Romantics, who voluntarily abandoned the observant and strong women. Held in three stages, the exhibition showcases different romantic heroines from the past, from fiction and from theatre.

Romantic heroine: an interchangeable woman?

From panel to panel, the subject matter is relatively similar: a woman with very pale and skinny skin wearing a simple sheet that reveals her silhouette. These women lie or dip into the arms of a man, giving the impression of fragility. Long live the romantic heroine “Strong emotions, experiences of despair and sadness, love and dying of love”Show mentions – without authentication. This flair for drama is also present from one art to the next, as the exhibition assures that the same characters are displayed in literature, painting, opera and theater.

Surprisingly, this romantic post sometimes leads to a reworking of the story of some of the heroines. So Sappho is known “The Oldest Lesbian In History”Did Antoine Jean Gros paint her as dying of love for an imaginary man! Joan of Arc, a female warrior, for her part, represents Alexandre Evariste Fragonard at stake, in white robe, hair drooping, and frail, with no regard for the feats of weapons.

To proceed to question this current, curators Gaëlle Rio and Elodie Kuhn are interested in the few female artists of the time. They cannot ignore George Sand, a notable figure of the time, whose heroines, freelancers, libertines, and travellers like Consuelo, broke away from the romantic model.

Reinventing heterosexual love

The whole point of this exhibition is (necessary) recasting the context of these figurative, literary and theatrical works. Because this perspective allows us to understand how the normative representation of women in romantic works is built: she is a gentle and fragile “woman”, dominated by her feelings. And this imagination still shapes our imagination. on his podcast Does the flower wax her pussy?Seeking to deconstruct Western art history, Julie Buzak has dedicated an episode to these sacrificial heroines, in partnership with the Museum of Romantic Life. Emphasize the importance of these questions, because “All images of suffering and sacrificed women, including the romanticization of deceased women, have contributed to the creation of a whole range of gender stereotypes that can be keys to understanding patriarchal patterns that are still very recent.”. In fact, the Romantic current posits that love – heterogeneous romance – is a feeling absolutely fundamental and central to existence. and Julie Buzak to ask: “He still talks a lot about that conflation of love and power that is still so present in contemporary hetero-romantic fiction.”

Romantic Heroines, Museum of Romantic Life (Paris 9e), until September 4, 2022. Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. 9 euros / 7 euros.

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