Author: Imogen Aldridge

The Power of Female Portraiture

“A man doesn't know what it's like to be a woman; it's that simple.” - Tracey Emin

Throughout art history, women have been at the forefront of the artist’s gaze. From sculpture to painting, the female form has been a leading subject matter in the art world. This viewing room dives into the presence of women in self-portraiture, taking a look at how artists have used the female body to explore the relationship between vulnerability, power and female stereotypes. From Tracey Emin to Linder to The Connor Brothers, these artists depict women in their art to compelling effect.

The origins of portraiture dates as far back as the Egyptians, and is steeped in social, political and cultural history. Flourishing as an art form in the middle ages and rising up the ranks as a popular form of expression in the 16th century, the art of portraiture is still celebrated to this day. Contemporary artists use portraits as a powerful form of expression, whether that be through self-introspection, communication, or scrutiny. Now portraiture, particularly self-portraiture, has arguably become the defining visual genre of our confessional age. For this viewing room, we take a look at female portraiture and the presence of women in front of the camera or easel. Whilst artists such as Tracey Emin use female portraiture to explore her own vulnerabilities, artists such as Linder and Marcelina Amelia reclaim the female body, choosing to flip the male gaze on its axis.

As portraiture has evolved with the times, many contemporary artists have adapted the genre, dragging this centuries old art from into the 21st century. Explained by author Frances Borcello as “a way to present a story about herself for public consumption”, female portraiture, created by women in particular, is a powerful and truthful form of expression. This viewing room also includes female portraits by male artists. The Connor Brothers, for example, utilise outdated images of women like the ‘femme fatale’ character in their artwork, creating vintage pieces that play on the stereotypes of the mid-20th century and the male artists that dominated the genre of female portraiture.

Despite the traditions of female-focused portraiture changing over the years, the genre has solidified its place as an enduring art form that can adapt and challenge expectations. We love how female portraiture has the ability to find power in vulnerability, and the artists in this viewing room encapsulate this perfectly.

 

The Power of Female Portraiture | Image

The Power of Female Portraiture | Image

Tracey Emin - Explore her artworks

Tracey Emin is a multimedia artist best known for her personal and powerful artworks, particularly her self portraits. Rising to fame as a key member of the YBA group, Emin creates portraits that are emotionally raw, honest and confrontational. Her artworks straddle the line between intimacy and relatability; viewers of her work can’t help but be confronted by their past when in the presence of Emin’s work. Packing an emotional punch, Emin uses her platform to draw attention to the female voice and the power of femininity. Working in a variety of mediums, Emin creates emotionally vulnerable artworks.

 

The Power of Female Portraiture | Image

The Power of Female Portraiture | Image

Linder - Explore her artworks

Linder is a British artist best known for her photo montage and collage artworks, often using the female form in her art to challenge society’s depiction of women. A self-proclaimed radical feminist, Linder combines images of nude women with miscellaneous objects such as shells or household objects, using these cut outs to preserve the womens’ modesty. Linder’s cut-and-paste technique is a Dada-esque commentary on the position of women in society. We love how Linder takes images of women traditionally created for the male gaze, and imbues them with a distinct and unforgiving feminist energy.

 

The Power of Female Portraiture | Image

The Power of Female Portraiture | Image

Marcelina Amelia - Explore her artworks

Marcelina Amelia is a champion of body positivity. Working between Poland and England, Amelia works with mixed media to create stunning artworks of her female subjects. The artist draws inspiration from her Polish heritage and often portrays women on their own touching themes of self acceptance and body positivity. Amelia’s art plays on the border between lust and innocence, positivity and negativity, and joy and sadness. Amelia eloquently describes her own portraits: “My interest in juxtaposition comes from my origins and fascination with Eastern European culture which was eloquently described by Grayson Perry as nowhere else where ‘such horrific grief met with such fairy tale romanticism.” We love how Amelia’s portraits tap into her own heritage; the artist succeeds in creating introspective artworks that are both vulnerable and empowering.

 

The Power of Female Portraiture | Image

The Power of Female Portraiture | Image

The Connor Brothers - Explore their artworks

The Connor Brothers create vintage-inspired artworks that merge together portraiture and typography. The artists utilise the image of the “femme fatale” in their artworks, creating portraits that blur the line between truth and perception. The Connor Brothers use their artworks to explore their own curiosities, focusing on the dynamic between truth and fiction, subverting and unpicking reality, whilst trying to make “sense of the world”. We love the darkly humorous, oftentimes satirical artwork of The Connor Brothers, and their use of vintage found imagery and witty copy.

To explore more portraiture artworks, visit our hand-picked collection here.

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