Drawn from a newly gifted collection of over 500 works of art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), the Female Gaze: The Linda Lee Alter Collection of Art by Women exhibition organized by PAFA is a rare opportunity to view works by 54 of America’s most important female artists. The theme of the exhibition is “The Female Gaze”–in other words, the development of a new way of picturing female identity as seen through the eyes of women. This theme is especially well reflected in the two works selected for our outdoor banner at the Shwayder Art Building. Here is a some background information on these works to highlight the positive story regarding the intent of the exhibition.
Artists have depicted motherhood in humorous, beautiful, and empathetic ways. A significant example included in The Female Gaze is Alice Neel’s extraordinary portrait of her friend, Claudia Bach, Pregnant. The painting depicts Bach both nude and pregnant but also with poise and dignity. Neel transforms the traditional image of the female nude from passive object into an assertive and aware individual who meets the viewer’s gaze. It is interesting that this portrait has attracted attention specifically for the reason that Bach is shown pregnant. Meanwhile, “traditional” portrayals of the female nude (usually painted by male artists), rarely draw this kind of attention even though they are often highly sexualized.