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Monet & Van Gogh

This paper address Monet's Women in the Garden (1866-67) and Van Gogh's La Berceuse (1889). The femininity = nature's fecundity trope (and the specific equivalence of women and flowers as a basic visual rendering of the idea) persists in art from very early on (should early examples be cited or are we art historians?). Monet and Van Gogh essentially make use of the same metaphor. But there are differences between their approaches that are reflected in their stylistic takes on the subjects. In both paintings women are flowers in a metaphoric sense and in both versions their fecundity (in a somewhat masculinist take on the metaphor) is contained by civilization/society. Women's generative powers are an example of nature under men's control, ie in a garden (= nature civilized) and inside with wallpaper (= nature domesticated). But Monet's version is a garden of women that the painters surveys and overlooks (are they friends? family?) and his positioning makes him the 'gardener.' Van Gogh's portrait of Roulin, however, is a work in which the metaphor is personalized. He resorts to it as an expression of his gratitude toward a friend who nurtured and assisted him when he, in his dependent state, was in need of help. Roulin, in her own home and with her (unseen) baby (the cord to the cradle could also be seen as connecting to the unseen artist), is in charge of her surroundings and her domestication of her flower/self is as much self-willed as it is natural.

In the Monet the unhatted, white-wearing (ie girlish, virginal) woman pursues the flowers. The seated woman holds a, mostly white, bouquet in her lap, her skirts spread around her. She clutches the flowers to her genital area while her skirts are open to the earth below her. The woman in brown is pregnant (wearing a maternity dress) and she is attended by a figure whose stripes and cap ribbons give her, I believe, a nurse-like air. (I'm making this up as I go along but...

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Monet & Van Gogh. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:31, February 26, 2017, from