Stettheimer displays her wealthy lifestyle in the subjects of her painting. Although not intentionally about wealth or class, it is still brought to light by the amount of free time she has to paint the subjects. The colors are bright and lively like a wealthy party. She creates a sense of harmony in her compositions which balances with the idea that she may be a person who values things differently from someone in a different social standing.
Prior to watching John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing Episode 3,” I viewed works of art only after doing research. When I look at a work of art, it is important for me to have some background knowledge on the subject in order to feel comfortable in a discussion setting. The reason behind doing research stems from my experience working at a museum. As a museum intern, I was responsible for guiding museum visitors around the museum. I, as a result, had to learn about the museum exhibits and to have an idea of what each section focused on. Watching the video, however, helped me understand that looking at artwork does not require having prior knowledge on the idea being presented. Berger emphasizes the idea of making detailed observations when looking at pieces of artwork and this is the approach i took for viewing Florine Stettheimer’s work.
While observing the artwork by Stettheimer, something that stood out to me was the floral designs she included in many of her art pieces. One in particular that caught my attention was the piece titled Family Portrait II, 1933, in which Stettheimer centered three flowers with her family gathered around. When looked at more closely, the foreground of the painting also depicts a large floral figure on which the three flowers in the center seem to rest on. The flowers in this painting are most likely symbolic of a certain aspect in the family of Stettheimer, for they are set to be the focal point of the artwork rather than her family members themselves. From the way the people were dressed in this particular painting, I was able to infer that Stettheimer came from a wealthy family. The women in the painting wear elaborate dresses and as Berger pointed out in his video, an attention to detail in a painting most often shows the social status or wealth of the people being depicted. The painting dates back to 1933, a period in which the country was still under the effects of the Great Depression. Despite the economic burdens of the time period, nevertheless, Stettheimer portrayed her family surrounded by fancy curtains and wearing clothing most closely associated with those of the upper class at the time. Something else I noticed as I looked at Stettheimer’s art is that her work is abstract. One example is the piece titled Family Portrait I, 1915 in which Stettheimer once again makes extensive use of floral design around the members of her family. Stettheimer takes on a modernist approach to her work by making use of symbols. In Portrait of Myself, 1923, Stettheimer appears to be blooming from a flower.
One final observation I made from the paintings by Stettheimer is that she was an artist who focused on family throughout her artwork. She has several portraits of herself in the collection showcased by the museum and she also included friends of hers in her work. Her sister must have been a strong figure in her life, given that she dedicates a portrait to her in the piece titled Portrait of My Sister, Ettie Stettheimer.
Discuss an aspect of the Stettheimer exhibit through a perspective learned from John Berger (this can be a more abstract perspective—what Berger made you think about as you were in the exhibit, perhaps focusing on a single piece, or the layout/arrangement of the exhibit).