Cotton Picking Girls

  One day, Winslow Homer visited Petersburg, Virginia, and decided to study the life of rural African Americans. At a time when the South was still recovering from the Civil War, and the legacy of slavery was fresh in everyone’s minds, Homer sought to portray African Americans as heroic survivors looking forward to a full life of hope and success. Boy, was he wrong. Critics look at this painting and praise it. They hail Homer – a white American painter – as “the first artist to have seen the possibilities of this untapped subject matter.” Even LACMA, where the painting is...

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Rebekah’s Sampler

  For decades, young girls created a sampler to show their skills and knowledge. This particular sampler features a variety of scenes, decorative elements, and text embroidered onto the fabric. A product like this was equivalent to today’s final exam or essay at the end of a school year. What does this sampler tell us about Rebeckah Munro, and other girls who grew up during the late 18th century? Rebekah was 11 years old when she completed this embroidery project. The verses that Rebekah chose to include on her sampler indicate that she, and likely her parents, valued education. It...

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The First Day of School

  Many of us have a memory of a first day of school. Whether donning a backpack filled with crayons and glue for preschool, hopping on the bus for the first time as a kindergarten student, or entering the intimidating halls of high school as a 9th grader, the first day of school can be a big deal! How do we hold on to those memories? In my experience, my mom often snapped a photo to commemorate the first day of school – something that we could look back on to see how much I grew from year to year, or to laugh at the 1990s fashion. What was the first day of school like before there...

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Girls of TED Talks: Rebecca Dharmapalan and “International Boulevard”

Do you love TED Talks? So do I. Today’s post is a continuation of our Girls of TED Talks series, which focuses on young girls who have presented at TED events around the world with their inspiring ideas. Rebecca Dharmapalan is a 19-year-old artist and activist working to tackle one huge problem: child sex trafficking in the United States. It’s a problem many don’t realize exists – and yet it affects the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of girls. In 2015 alone, nearly 100,000 children were trafficked in the U.S. Rebecca is using her voice to take a stand. She produced the...

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The Subtleties of Beauty in Picasso’s Les Mademoiselles d’Avignon

When I think about girls in museums, in the literal sense at least, my art historian brain automatically sees the classic images of the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo. However, my rebellious mind reaches into the depths of Magritte and Picasso where girls are depicted in far stranger and more allegorical ways. Although we can all appreciate the artistry of da Vinci and other such greats, depictions of women in art are far more appealing to me if they stand out. Within the walls of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) stands one example: Pablo Picasso’s Les Mademoiselles d’Avignon (1907) – a...

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Why we still need John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing”

A woman is always accompanied, except when quite alone, and perhaps even then, by her own image of herself. … From earliest childhood she is taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does, because how she appears to others – and particularly how she appears to men – is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. The words above hold true for many. They were spoken forty-five years ago by John Berger. The art critic had turned heads with his radical leftist thinking on the image of women in...

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Kate Greenaway: Girls, Flowers and Fashion

Kate Greenaway’s illustrations from the late 1800s are childhood favourites for many growing up in England. Even if you grew up somewhere else in the world there’s still a chance you will have seen them adorning the pages of a children’s book. The style in which she depicted children – angelic youths with puffed out cheeks, pale skin, red lips and golden hair – is full of energy, nature and cheekiness, if a little over-Romantic for some tastes. She drew a lot of flowers too, along with decorative alphabets and illustrated poems, all intricately detailed. My favourite thing about her drawings...

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Silk Princess Painting

  Princesses are known to follow the rules, wait for the prince, and live happily ever after. Like this votive panel illustrating from the 6th Century however, shows that this isn’t always the case. The votive panel illustration tells the story of smuggling, secret silkworms, and definitely breaking the rules. The votive panel isn’t a beautiful piece of art. Compared to the rest of the British Museum’s collection of works, it certainly wouldn’t stand out. But, it was never intended to be a beautiful art piece. The votive panel was intended to be a storyteller, and the story it tells is...

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The Ancient Egyptian Female Ideal

I’ve always been particularly fascinated by the portrayal of women in Ancient Egypt. Every single Egyptian woman illustrated in tombs or statues is always extremely slim and slender, youthful, and with a beautiful full black wig. This tomb-relief showing Djehutyhotep’s sister is no different. It’s very likely that not all women were truly like this, and that this portrayal is simply an Ancient Egyptian female ideal – but why? The Ancient Egyptians had many different gods and goddesses. The most prevalent Egyptian goddess was Isis. Isis herself was always shown as slim and youthful. She was...

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The Veiled Vestal Virgin

On a recent trip to the Peak District I had the pleasure of staying on the Chatsworth Estate. Its huge private collection includes a Rembrandt and a Renoir. For a long time, this sculpture, The Veiled Vestal Virgin, has beguiled me with its beauty. If you are a Jane Austen fan, you may recognise it from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaption. The piece itself was sculpted by the Italian artist Raffaelle Monti in 1846 on a commission from the Duke of Devonshire, the family of whom still live in the house today. The reason I love this so much is the detail on the face of the statue. Carved in...

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