Le portrait de l’artiste peint par elle-même: Negotiations of the Artist-Muse Binary in George Sand’s Elle et lui (1859)

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Abstract

While ideas about the Muse date from antiquity and have evolved over time, the concept of the male artist and his female muse has continually informed how creativity and inspiration are imagined and understood. This prevalent image of artistic creation—which problematizes the position of women as artists—was, however, visibly challenged by the increased number of female painters in nineteenth-century France. The growing presence of women artists on the cultural stage thus poses the question: when the artist is no longer automatically assumed to be male and the muse female, what is the status of the woman artist? In this article, McTurk-Starkie analyzes three key scenes involving mirrors, reflections, and painting in George Sand's Elle et lui (1859) in order to explore how Sand complicates assumed paradigms of the gaze between the painter and the painted figure. The article then examines the impact of the text's final act as one of self-portraiture; the protagonist Thérèse becomes l'artiste peinte par elle-même. By questioning the boundaries between self and other, and subject and object, Sand's Elle et Lui innovatively proposes alternative configurations of the relationship between artist, model, and canvas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-53
JournalWomen in French Studies
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2022

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