After attending the Thursday dress rehearsal for this year’s Pageant of the Masters, I reflected on how lovely the many contextualizing images were, especially the Velasquez painting “Las Meninas,” as it metamorphosed into the several Picasso renditions, and the Van Gogh self-portraits, shifting and turning seamlessly as if he were alive and posing.
As usual, the tableaux were impressive, clever and surprising. The variety of media: sculpture, painting, music, and song – even the floating planets — also made for a lively spectacle.
But one flaw was evident from the beginning: no women were included in the overture that developed the theme Genius. Furthermore, of all the works portrayed throughout the show, only Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s “Titanic Memorial” represented female accomplishments.
I thought about Camille Claudel’s sculptures – contemporary with and as powerful as Rodin’s; Mary Cassatt’s impressionistic paintings, the brilliant Clara Barton and Jane Addams – clever intelligent women who revolutionized the spheres they were permitted to operate within, and who extended the limits of those spheres in the process. I thought of Hildegarde of Bingen, Marie Curie and Clara Schumann. I wondered why Isabella D’Este’s story couldn’t have been more prominent; she was in the painting with Galileo!
And then I considered, since modern women in this post-feministic world most likely seek out these entertainments, their dates and husbands in tow, why not balance the program and acknowledge that there have also been brilliant and talented women in the past, despite the myriad limitations they have historically faced? Do the men and women who determine the Pageant’s content really believe that only men’s accomplishments matter?
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