Gazing in and Gazing Out: The Role of Women in Two Paintings by Gauguin

By Sara Dailey.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper investigates the act of “gazing” by examining the role of women in two paintings by Gauguin, “The Yellow Christ” and “Vision After a Sermon,” in order to determine how the physical act of gazing is controlled by a painter’s cues, what can be learned through gazing at a work of art, and how gazing can affect that which is gazed upon. This paper asserts that by examining the female characters in these two paintings, not only does the viewer learn how Gauguin controls physical gazes through his depiction of these women, but that the viewer also learns how these women function as mediators between the human and the divine through both their role as witnesses to the action happening within the paintings and through their physical placement on the canvases themselves. As they are simultaneously controlling the viewer’s physical gaze as well as functioning as intercessors between the spiritual and the physical, the women’s own gazes also foreshadow how Gauguin’s interest as a painter will move from spiritual subjects to the subject of the physical body in later work. In addition, this paper examines how the gaze of the women implicate the viewer of the painting itself, who becomes not just the gazer, but also the gazed-upon.

Keywords: Women in Art, Gauguin, Gazing in Art, Spirituality in Art

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.91-96. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 582.425KB).

Sara Dailey

Library Staffer/Adjunct Faculty, Library, English Department, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, USA

Sara Dailey has a B.S. in Writing, a M.A. in English, and is currently completing her M.F.A. in Poetry. She currently works as the Corresponding Editor for two journals published by IEEE and as an adjunct instructor for three universities. In 2009 she won Shadow Poetry’s 11th biannual chapbook competition for her manuscript The Science of Want, and was a finalist for the Flume Press chapbook contest. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including California Quarterly, The Bitter Oleander, Whiskey Island Magazine, Cimarron Review, Calyx, Diner and Blue Earth Review, among others. In 2008 she presented a paper titled “Moral Journeys: Exploring Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials through the Lens of Lawrence Kohlberg’s Cognitive Theory of Moral Development” at the Hawaii International Arts and Humanities Conference.

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