Year of Publication
Humanities: Critical Research
Art and Visual Studies
Saloniste Florine Stettheimer rarely exhibited her art while she was alive- and when she did, it was only to her inner circle of queer and avant-garde friends (including individuals like Marcel Duchamp and Carl Van Vechten). After her death, however, we see why she was so secretive- her works were very ahead of their time in the 1920s, and remain layered with intention. This essay seeks to analyze three of Stettheimer’s artworks- A Model (Nude Self-Portrait), Portrait of Myself, and Portrait of My Sister, Ettie Stettheimer- in the context of how gender and female sexuality were and continue to be visually portrayed.
In A Model (Nude Self-Portrait), Stettheimer parodies Manet’s Olympia, itself inspired by Titian’s Venus of Urbino. She paints herself as a true redhead with a knowing smile and full power over her own body. She holds her own bouquet and is not tended by a maid like in the Manet piece. In this work, Stettheimer toys with gaze- whose gaze controls her? The viewer’s, or her own? Stettheimer seeks to hold her own gaze (or at least power over her viewer’s), if not in a literal way (with a mirror), in a figurative way (with her eyes, conventions, and other details). Painted eight years later, Portrait of Myself and Portrait of My Sister, Ettie Stettheimer both show a change in Stettheimer’s style. Where A Model (Nude Self-Portrait) follows early twentiethcentury conventions of proportion, the two later works use Stettheimer’s mature style of languid, disproportionate bodies with overly large eyes, and little indication of gender or logical space to speak of. These works, when compared to Stettheimer’s 1915 painting A Model (Nude Self- Portrait), show Stettheimer’s gradual disinterest in the concept of gaze presented in art, and her gradual interest arising in gender presentation.
Mullins, Sydney A., "A Portrait of Myself: Gaze Through the Eyes of Florine Stettheimer" (2019). Oswald Research and Creativity Competition. 22.