Naked Authority: The Body in Western Painting 1830-1908

Marcia Pointon, Author, Norman Bryson, Editor Cambridge University Press $49.95 (172p) ISBN 978-0-521-38528-2
This challenging book discusses intersubjectivity between painter, subject and viewer over the issue of gender in Western painting, concentrating mostly on the naked female body, the ``range of viewing possibilities'' its depiction creates, and how these ``acts of interpretation'' relate to the artist's political and psychosexual meaning. Pointon's prose often leaves the reader frustrated and dismayed: ``The ways in which images work in terms of sexual oppression are determined by the relations between the viewing positions of spectators as gendered subjects and the viewing subjects as constructed in images through forms of visual rhetoric.'' The author puts a Freudian spin on Thomas Eakins's operating room tableaux, The Gross Clinic and The Agnew Clinic , she arbitrates views of Delacroix's Liberty on the Barricades as whore and heroine, and she determines the allegorical status of the naked picnicker in Manet's Le dejeuner sur l'herbe . Though there are insights aplenty, this collection of essays is crowded with peripheral facts and citations, the claustrophobic feeling exacerbated by Pointon's ( History of Art: A Student's Handbook ) narrow focus on a small number of works. Black-and-white illustrations. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
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