My visual project is an extension of my research this semester on the role of women and the aesthetic ideal in the double works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Christina Rossetti’s poem “In an Artist’s Studio” prompted me to consider the objectification and commodification of women in Pre-Raphaelite art, despite their vital contributions as muses and artists in their own right. I wanted to provide an alternate narrative to the works of DGR by exploring the same subject matter in a way that restores female agency and critiques the omnipresent male gaze.
I’ve illustrated “In an Artist’s Studio,” but have played the role of model, artist and poet myself. I chose a combination of acrylic painting and photocollage for this piece. The painting reflects Rossetti’s original method (although not his original medium), while the use of photocollage brings the piece back into an exclusively female sphere, as a pastime and art form enjoyed by aristocratic Victorian women. The sonnet features a reply by the female subject to the male artist using her as a muse. The method of display is meant to recall DGR’s earlier double works, and to require the same mobile gaze DGR demanded of his Victorian readers/viewers. The painting is directly inspired by a depiction of Rossetti’s studio by his studio assistant, Henry Treffry Dunn. The title of my piece comes from Dante Alighieri’s Purgatory, Canto XXXII from The Divine Comedy.
Photography courtesy of Nikolina Vujosevic