School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    On being a woman artist: glimpses into the lives of four women working in Victoria between 1930 - 1950
    Tennant, Cherry ( 1992)
    Adapting the words of Judith Allen, in order to understand the present for women artists we need to look at the lives of women artists in the past. (Allen, 1986, p.173) For reasons explained in the preface the period I have chosen to explore is between 1930-1950. Glimpsing aspects of the lives of specific women artists can enable us to see where conditions and opportunities have changed. As Weedon suggests in the above quote how we live is dependent on existing social conditions. As a background to the words of the women I interviewed, my first aim is to set out the historical and social conditions in which they lived their lives. This will be done by giving a general background of life in Victoria during the 1930s and 1940s. This is followed by an impression of the art world during this era, the art organizations that already existed and those that were founded and had a significant effect on the time. Discussion will cover changes in attitude that were occurring towards what was called Modernism during this time. This will lead into an overview of the position of women artists during this period, together with a review of other writers who have written on this topic. The place of the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors in the Melbourne art world at this time will also be described. The fourth section briefly introduces the four women artists whose words form the basis of this paper, including how and why they were interviewed. The chapter ends with an exposition of the purpose of this thesis. My position is that as human beings we are socially produced. My present concern as a feminist is with the position of women. Hester Eisenstein and Nancy Chodorow reinforce this theory and they also consider, as I do, that we can alter our conditioning and circumstances. (Eisenstein, 1984, p.xiv) In this study I show how these four women artists lived their lives and how they were influenced and constrained by the social conditions of their day. Acknowledging these women’s lives can help women artists today continue the process of change in their own lives. (From Introduction)