What are the attributes of a female’s view of landscape?
Whenever a discussion moves to the topic of what constitutes women’s art, most sensitive (and sensible) folk know that a change of subject is necessary and required quickly. In short, the topic verges on taboo; a bit like chatting idly about religion and politics around the dining room table. While not disregarding that any discussion of what constitutes a female’s view of landscape is problematic—even more so when an answer is being proposed by a man—the question is not really about a how women see the landscape so much as the differences in women’s vision to the way men look at landscape. After all defining most problems involves comparison with what something is not. But before I set forth on what must be shaky ground of political correctness, I need to make my position regarding the following discussion very clear: my views are based solely on personal experience and reflection as a teacher. They are not the outcome of formal research and fact-finding missions. Instead, I see the following “answers” as an initial framing of ideas—very raw beginnings—and platforms of departure for future formal investigations into feminine ways of looking.
Let me begin by focusing attention on the passionate French painter-printmaker, Angele Delasalle (1867–1941). As shown in her etching, Montigny-Beauchamp (1907) (see below), Delasalle’s portrayal of landscape reveals an artist who has a well-formed personal perception of her subject. This is expressed in part by the uncompromising confidence of her line work with its signature style of freely laid and looped strokes that are clustered in shadow areas and spread out in the light. Delasalle’s perception of landscape is also expressed by the consistency of her approach: a type of pictorial democracy where no individual landscape feature is treated differently to the next. By this I mean that each feature is depicted in the same broad (i.e. non specific) way rather than each feature having been rendered to show its specific attributes of texture, sheen and incidental detail.