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19 October 2020

A very very interesting show has just opened at the Prado, how we wish we could get to it. (A weekend away! A hotel breakfast! A delicate little lunch of fish and something! An art gallery! Cobbled streets! Will it ever happen again...). The show, called Uninvited Guests, Episodes on Women, Ideology and the Visual Arts in Spain (1833-1931) has already caused controversy (according to the Guardian here) but it seems that they are not doing something very different from us – linking feminism, domesticity and realism ie. how life really was. Rather than trying to rewrite history. This is such a tricky issue and of course some people don't get it. Anyway, we need time to explore what the Prado has actually done by getting hold of the catalogue but on the Post this week we can make a start. The exhibition is rather cleverly divided into seventeen 'episodes' or sections and here, for example, is what the curator has to say about Section 13 Lady Copyists: "For much of the 19th century, women’s artistic activity consisted essentially of copying the works of the old masters. Regarded at first as an appropriately decorous activity for a lady, it also helped to alleviate the restriction of being barred from an academic training, and it eventually became a pursuit with lucrative possibilities that led to calls for professional status. Women thus showed their replicas at the public exhibitions, and it became common to see them copying works in museums, although it was to be some time before they went unaccompanied. When they signed the register at the Museo del Prado, most of them added the word copianta after their names. This is a feminised version of copiante, or copyist, showing their desire for professional recognition. Only a few referred to themselves as ‘painters’ or ‘artists’." This is The Spinners (an 1872 copy of Velázquez) by Madame Anselma (Alejandrina Gessler de Lacroix).

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