2022 Exhibition Announcement - Reframed: The Woman in the Window
In Spring 2022, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present Reframed: The Woman in the Window, the first exhibition to explore the enigmatic motif of the ‘woman in the window’. Featuring artworks from ancient civilisations to present day, the exhibition will bring together over 40 works by artists including Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, David Hockney, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Wolfgang Tillmans and Rachel Whiteread to reveal how artists have long used the motif to elicit a particular kind of response ranging from empathy to voyeurism.
Featuring a range of media including sculpture, painting, print, photography, film and installation art, the exhibition will identify the key geographic locations, cultures and time periods for which the ‘woman in the window’ had a particular meaning and what the motif reveals about issues of gender and visibility. Highlights will include Louise Bourgeois’ My Blue Sky (1989-2003), David Hockney’s The Tower Had One Window (1969) and the Gallery’s own Girl at a Window (1645) by Rembrandt, the initial point of inspiration for the exhibition.
Ancient works on loan from The British Museum, including a carved ivory panel from the 10th century BCE and a Roman tomb, will reveal the early history of the motif and its use in representations of power, seduction, spirituality and the afterlife. The exhibition will also explore the motif in Medieval depictions of saints, Renaissance poetry and portraiture, and art of the Dutch Golden Age. Masterpieces from these periods will be displayed alongside later works such as Tom Hunter’s Woman Reading a Possession Order (1997) to reveal the lasting influence of the composition and how it has been reimagined to convey different ideas.
The exhibition will go on to consider the personal and often intimate relationships between artists and their models and muses through works by artists such as Walter Sickert, Pablo Picasso and Wolfgang Tillmans. It will also consider one of the most prevalent uses of the motif, to portray women enclosed within the domestic interior, often occupied in an activity traditionally described as ‘women’s work’ such as sewing or cooking, and looking longingly out of the window as in Isabel Codrington’s The Kitchen (1927). Another theme will explore the abstracted or fragmented representation of a woman framed by a window, a composition that removes a sense of particularity or personality as in Howard Hodgkin’s Girl by a Window (1964).
The final section of the show will challenge notions of spectatorship, desire and display with works such as Marina Abramović’s Role Exchange (1975) and Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #15 (1978) in which both artists place themselves in the role of the woman at the window. While Abramović explores what it means to become a sexual commodity, Sherman considers stereotypes of female representation in popular culture through the process of transforming into one herself.
A key aim of the exhibition is also to turn the focus towards women artists who have adopted the concept of the window as a site of communication, connection and inspiration. While confined to her house, Louise Bourgeois salvaged a window frame to create My Blue Sky (1989-2003), representing a lifeline to the outside world. The exhibition will conclude with a poignant epilogue, a selection of works created during national lockdowns to recognise the new meaning the notion of a ‘woman in the window’ has acquired in the context of the global pandemic.
Dulwich Picture Galley will also use the exhibition as an opportunity to hear from a diverse range of contemporary voices through a newly commissioned digital artwork. Inspired by recorded conversations with community members it will be a poignant moment in the exhibition, focusing on themes of identity and perspectives.
The exhibition will include major loans from public and private collections with UK loans from Tate, V&A, The British Museum and The National Gallery, and international loans from The Louise Bourgeois Trust and Hauser & Wirth in New York.
The exhibition is curated by Dr Jennifer Sliwka (King’s College London), previously celebrated for her major exhibition Monochrome: Painting in Black and White (National Gallery London, Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, 2017-18). Sliwka said:
“This show will allow visitors to explore a powerful motif across geographic boundaries and time periods to discover why the ‘woman in the window’ has been so important to different cultures at different times. It will provide insight into the ways artists have taken up the device of the window as a kind of ‘portal’ between two realms: the real and the imagined, the sacred and the profane, between this life and the afterlife or between the public and the private.”
Jennifer Scott, the Sackler Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery, said:
“The exhibition is going to be a revelatory experience for our visitors. Juxtapositions of artists and works that transcend history will be on display, with our very own ‘Girl at a Window’ by Rembrandt as a catalyst for discussion. And this really is the exhibition for now, as themes of isolation, seclusion and contemplation gain increasing pertinence in a post-lockdown world.”
Notes to editors
Caitlin Collinson, PR Manager
Reframed: The Woman in the Window
4 May – 4 September 2022
Publicity images can be downloaded from the Gallery’s website at: dpg.art/presspics
Image credits: Tom Hunter, Woman Reading Possession Order, 1997, from the series ‘Persons Unknown’, courtesy the artist Tom Hunter; Louise Bourgeois, My Blue Sky, 1989-2003 © The Easton Foundation / VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021. Photo: Christopher Burke; Wolfgang Tillmans, Smokin Jo, window, 1995 © Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Maureen Paley, London; Gerrit Dou, A Woman Playing a Clavichord, c.1665, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London