cover of book

Painting the Difference: Sex and Spectator in Modern Art
by Charles Harrison
University of Chicago Press, 2005
eISBN: 978-0-226-31799-1 | Paper: 978-0-226-31798-4 | Cloth: 978-0-226-31797-7
Library of Congress Classification ND1460.S44H37 2005
Dewey Decimal Classification 759.06

The picture plane of a painting creates boundaries and perspectives. It governs the relationship of daubs of pigment on a canvas to reality, allowing the viewer to connect with the imagined world of a work of art. Charles Harrison's latest endeavor, Painting the Difference, explores the role of the picture plane in modern painting and the relationships it creates among the artist, the subject, and the spectator. One of the most respected teachers and theorists of modern art, Harrison here offers a bold interpretation of the Modernist canon that uncovers the significance of gender to the functioning of the picture plane.

Arguing that the representation of women in art was crucial to the character of modernity, Harrison traces the history of female subjects as they began to gaze out of the picture to confront and engage their viewers. Combining sweeping conceptual history with telling investigations into the details of particular paintings, Painting the Difference deciphers the implications of sexual difference for the development of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art. Harrison shows how artists, reflecting the underlying anxieties of the time about gender, used female subjects' gazes both to create a sexualized relationship between these subjects and their viewers, and to simultaneously question that relationship. In considering works by artists such as Renoir, Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Picasso, and Matisse, as well as Rothko, Warhol, Cindy Sherman, and many more, Harrison incorporates elements of cultural criticism and social history into his arguments, and generous color illustrations permit the reader to test Harrison's claims against the works on which they are based. Rich with detail and compelling analysis, Painting the Difference offers cutting-edge interpretation grounded in the reality of magnificent works of art.

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