Artibus et Historiae no. 22 (XI)

1990, ISSN 0391-9064

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UDO KULTERMANN - Woman Asleep and the Artist

The theme of the sleeping woman in art is investigated from a perspective which reopens questions about how artists at different times have represented woman asleep, and what this depiction reveals about the relationship between women and men. The prehistoric image of woman is analyzed in the Sleeping Lady from the Hypogeum in Malta, and the image of antiquity in poems by Propertius and the Ariadne in the Vatican Museums. Giorgione's Sleeping Venus in Dresden is related to the image from antiquity, but at the same time represents a newly defined ideal in terms of wedding symbolism. A separate theme, also originating in antiquity and appearing with many variations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is the sleeping woman watched by men. The modern depiction of sleeping women takes on a more strongly yoyeuristic aspect in works by Gustave Courbet and Johann Baptist Reiter, and also in early photography; but in works by Redon and Brancusi the cosmic reverberations return. Since 1960, completely new perspectives have been opened in performance art, in which women dominate the scene and, for the first time since prehistory, give a female identity to the image of sleeping women. Works by Lygia Clark, Yayoi Kusama, Colette, Natalia Ll, Rimma Gerlovina, Valie Export, and Ulrike Rosenbach are examined in this article.

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