An Analysis of Female Stereotypes in Different Works of Art

Picasso, and La Belle Angèle, 1889 by Paul Gauguin are three works of art by three different artists, and that all depict women under different lights but do indeed have in common some similarities that lead into a shared meaning they all convey to the viewers. Of different artistic styles, perspectives, and forms, these paintings may differ in the details, but the overarching message impelled by the intentions of their respective artists is the how women are subject to the standards of their times and places, and that society determines the place of a woman within its framework.

Matisse’s The Blue Nude portrays a middle-aged woman with short hair, completely in the nude with her breasts bare for all to see and laying down on her side. She’s posing with her right arm beneath her and her left arm above her head, one leg crossing the other. Her body is curved, especially around the buttocks area, and demonstrates the atavism of what body type is considered desirable by male-dominated societies, in this case voluptuousness in all the right places.

Meeting the physical expectations and body requirements of society, the nude woman nevertheless appears as if she’s shy, or worrisome over how she looks in the painting and perhaps the social repercussions of her behavior. Experiencing this in the modern period, it is a testament to how far human culture has come since the first cave paintings and mini totems carried around by early peoples and their embrace of the human body and all its imperfections.

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Matisse’s signature visuals, which makes use of a wide array of rich colors and the fluidity of shapes, as encapsulated by the artistic movement of modernism, is presented in The Blue Nude. In the foreground is the woman in the nude, center-stage of the image, whom is painted in a soft hue of pinkish tan and a more eye-catching ocean blue splattered primarily across her face, breasts, and buttocks, regions typically associated with female attractiveness.

She is laying in a meadow, which comprises the background, and is painted in shades of red, green, and purple, the meadow is the perfect scene for such a painting where it underpins this running theme of natural beauty, set in the wilderness detached from society and outside its sphere of control. In regard to the shapes and figures of the image, the woman’s body is angular with sharp or parabolic lines etched into the painting. Matisse’s accentuation of her voluptuous body, and his proportions underscores his efforts to establish a connection between the beauty of a woman’s body and her emancipation from not only society and its barriers, as well as her mental slavery to self-doubt.

Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is similar to Matisse’s work in the sense that both emphasize female beauty through their nakedness, but whereas Matisse’s nude is somewhat more realistic and stresses the sexual regions of the female body. Corresponding to the foreground, Picasso’s work portrays five women, all next to one another, proudly posing in the nude, throwing caution to the wind and doing what they want without worry. His well- known distortion of the human body, a product of his devotion to the Cubist movement in the art world, is evidenced by the body parts of the women in the nude.

Albeit, the sexual regions often associate with the female figure are discolored or otherwise undistinguished from the rest of the image, which suggests that maybe this painting isn’t so much about sexuality as it is about homing in on the self-confidence of the women.

Picasso’s famed cubist style plays an important part in the construct of the painting, as he chops up and rearranges the pieces of the women like a puzzle, more obvious in their faces, grotesque and difficult to look at, perhaps for the purposes of showing that there is a greater interest in women as sexual playthings whom are only good for one thing and one thing only, and so their faces, or personalities, make no real difference in their worth or value to society or those within it.

There’s also his usage of extravagant colors across the canvas in his depiction of the women, with red, orange, yellow pigments dominating the scene and adding to the vibrancy an exoticness of the women in their state of undress, as if they’re putting on a show for the viewer. With regard to the shapes and scale of the, the painting is oriented around a series of square and rectangles geometrically organized to give off the effect of confusion and uncertainty.

Gauguin’s La Belle Angèle takes a different approach in its portrayal of the women. Contrary to previous paintings and their depiction of women in the nude and embracing their bodies and sexualities, there is a conservativeness and propriety surrounding the woman in the portrait. Sitting stiff with a stoic face, she looks to be in consternation, or simply uninterested. She appears to be standing, and oddly enough isn’t aligned with the center of the painting, as was more often than not the case with most portraitures.

In the background, there is a floral pattern above the ring in which her image is framed in, adding a touch of homeliness to the scene. Around her neck, she is adorned with a gold cross tied together with a garnished band of sorts; and she is also shown with a headpiece as was the custom of the time for the sake of propriety. Her hands are almost enclosed together, as if she’s never- wracked over the whole thing. A little out of place in the scene is the statue of a meditative figure, likely the Buddha with his hair in a bun, on her left.

Artistically, Gauguin works with an assortment of colors, shapes, and especially with the texture of the painting. Primary colors seem to be red and blue, the colors of her dress and of the background, with secondary colors such as yellow and orange for the bottom shading of the portrait as well as the Buddha statute; and pink and green for the flowers atop her image. Shape-wise, the image is divided into a circle, square, and a rectangle. The lady’s image is confined within the circle on the right-hand side of the portrait, with a line separating the bottom portion with the discoloration, from the top portion of the painting with the Buddha and floral arrangement. Texturally, the material of the portrait comes across as rough with a scratchy surface, unsurprising considering it has undergone the test of time. Otherwise, it is in great condition and retains its beauty.

To conclude, all three artists, through their masterpieces, attempt to convey the same point across all their works, and that is about the illusion of woman’s choice: if women embrace and flaunt their sexuality, are they doing so because that is what the men at the time demand of them, or is it because they truly have the free will to make decisions disassociated from society and its inconsistent standards?

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An Analysis of Female Stereotypes in Different Works of Art. (2022, Dec 15). Retrieved from

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