Exhibition: And the artist created woman

In the Eye of the Beholder

Blains Fine Art, London

To introduce an exhibition that scrutinises the role of women in art from 1800 by wondering whether "her allure and sensuality or her purity and beauty has continued to intrigue artists through the century" seems wilfully to gloss over the post-romantic artistic revolution with all the sophistication of a Christmas perfume advert.

Still, even Frederic Leighton, who luridly pursued in his female subjects the aforementioned qualities of purity and sensuality, undertook his allegorical paintings in pre-Raphaelite reaction, however vague, to developments in art up to and including the 19th century.

Not dissimilar, though far more rewarding formal preoccupations, also complicate our perception of Degas's view of women. His paintings of dancers lounging around in rehearsal explore the use of incidental perspectives, but to what degree we can disentangle this artistic rule-bending from the casual disregard for his subjects is difficult to judge.

It should also be interesting to see how a commercial gallery throws light upon the development of the classical female muse in painting during the 19th and 20th centuries. Henry Moore's female images, for instance, recall Gauguin's search for the unsullied relationship between humanity and nature he saw epitomised in South Seas women.

Indulging the 20th-century eye for primitivist art, his female stone figures, like many of his sculptures, seem like an organic realisation of some inherent potential of the stone rather than a mimetic likeness hammered into the material.

To 31 Jan 1998. Blains Fine Art, 23 Bruton Street, London W1 (0171-228 5333).

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