chapter  21
Griselda Pollock
Excerpts from ‘Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity’
Pages 14

The schema which decorated the cover of Alfred H.Barr’s catalogue for the exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1936 is paradigmatic of the way modern art has been mapped by modernist art

history. Artistic practices from the late nineteenth century are placed on a chronological flow chart where movement follows movement connected by oneway arrows which indicate influence and reaction. Over each movement a named artist presides. All those canonized as the initiators of modern art are men. Is this

because there were no women involved in early modern movements? No.1 Is it because those who were, were without significance in determining the shape and character of modern art? No. Or is it rather because what modernist art history

celebrates is a selective tradition which normalizes, as the only modernism, a particular and gendered set of practices? I would argue for this explanation. As a result any attempt to deal with artists in the early history of modernism who are

These are, however, widespread and structure the discourse of many countermodernists, for instance in the social history of art. The recent publication The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers, by T.J. Clark,3

offers a searching account of the social relations between the emergence of new protocols and criteria for painting-modernism-and the myths of modernity

shaped in and by the new city of Paris remade by capitalism during the Second Empire. Going beyond the commonplaces about a desire to be contemporary in art, ‘il faut être de son temps’,4 Clark puzzles at what structured the notions of

modernity which became the territory for Manet and his followers. He thus indexes the impressionist painting practices to a complex set of negotiations of the ambiguous and baffling class formations and class identities which emerged in

Parisian society. Modernity is presented as far more than a sense of being ‘up to

date’—modernity is a matter of representations and major myths-of a new Paris

for recreation, leisure and pleasure, of nature to be enjoyed at weekends in suburbia, of the prostitute taking over and of fluidity of class in the popular spaces of entertainment. The key markers in this mythic territory are leisure, consumption,

the spectacle and money. And we can reconstruct from Clark a map of impressionist territory which stretches from the new boulevards via Gare St Lazare out on the suburban train to La Grenouillère, Bougival or Argenteuil. In these sites, the artists

lived, worked and pictured themselves.5 But in two of the four chapters of Clark’s book, he deals with the problematic of sexuality in bourgeois Paris and the canonical paintings are Olympia (1863, Paris, Musée du Louvre) and A bar at the FoliesBergère (1881-82, London, Courtauld Institute of Art).