Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Fetus in 19th Century Symbolist Art

An interesting essay by a feminist scholar.

Though the fetus motif never became widespread, its occurrence in the graphic art of several late-nineteenth-century artists, most of them belonging to the Symbolist movement, nonetheless raises many questions. What was its significance for nineteenth-century viewers? How was it related to the social and political issues of the day—issues such as abortion and closely related fears of depopulation, racial degeneration, and deformity, as well the lightning rod for such fears—feminism. What personal investment did the artists in question have in the motif? And how and in what contexts did it appear in their art?

And here's a snippet about feminists and abortion in 19th century France:

Yet, though they advocated family planning, the feminists rejected contraception or abortion, as they considered both these practices to be in the realm of prostitution.

It wasn't just an American thing.