The tradition of Western painting is partly based on the unspoken assumption that men are actively watching, and women are objects to look at. "Disturbing femininity"explores the politics of viewing and questions how we usually look at the images of women through the prism of the Fry Museum of Art collection and the aesthetic preferences of the founders of the Charles and Emma Fry Museum. The exhibition examines the historical traditions and deeply held beliefs and power structures that they reflect especially with respect to gender expectations regarding appearance and behavior.
The exhibition focuses mainly on the portrayal of white women by German artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The women depicted - from biblical and mythological characters, celebrities and actresses to the lower classes - adopt specific poses, gestures and expressions that emphasize the performative nature of sex as a special set of socially studied and stereotyped forms of behavior. Many works emphasize such features as humility, vulnerability and sexual accessibility, which corresponded to the common cultural views of the XIX century about what constitutes an ideal feminine nature and body. Others deliberately challenged the more conservative Christian sentiments common in cities such as Munich, creating confrontational images that eroticized religious women. Regardless of whether these images of women were connected with virtue and beauty or danger and sex, they rewritten the moral boundaries that ultimately maintained the patriarchal status quo.