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Picturing a World

Girl writing—Henriette Browne

As we go into an uncertain future on Inauguration Day 2017, I am calming myself at night by reading Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books. As girls, lots of female writers identified with Jo March of Little Women. Betsy Ray was an even greater heroine to me. Inspired by her writer’s nest in a maple tree in Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, I nailed a wooden cigar box to a branch of a cherry laurel in our front yard where I could keep pencils and paper for writing stories up in the branches.

Henriette Browne’s picture of a girl with her books, paper, pen, and pet goldfinch freed from its cage warms my heart and leads my imagination into a similarly calm yet creative space. I hope you have your own way of coping in the coming days.

For more about Henriette Browne’s life, click here.

A much longer treatment of her early work can be found in Reina Lewis, “Gender, genre and Henriette Browne, the making of a woman Orientalist artist,” Ch. 3, Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation, (Routledge, 2013). I was able to read a good bit of it on-line at Google Books, although not all. Lewis argues that Browne's early work was construed in the 19th C as demonstrating the supposedly feminine qualities of “intuition, compassion, and perception” and thus preparing for the reception of her Orientalist paintings as naturalistically observed.

Let's hope for intuition, compassion, and perception from a whole lot of folks, male and female, in the coming months and years.
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