Fine Arts | Topics in Art History: Women & Art Behind the Iron Curtain
A200 | FINA | Matuszak, Joanna

The course is designed to familiarize students with the artistic
production of women-artists in Russia and countries of the Eastern
Bloc in the second half of the twentieth century. The metaphor of
the Iron Curtain used by Winston Churchill in his famous speech of
March 5, 1946, functions in the name of the course both as a
geographical and historical signifier. In less than fifty years from
that date the division of Europe came to an end. This moment is the
symbolic closure for the period covered by this course. Despite the
title indicative of a specific time period the first lectures will
be devoted to women-artists’ active role in the development of
Russian and Eastern European avant-gardes. The purpose for this is
not only to broaden the scope of the course but also to set a ground
against which post-war modernism and neo-avant-garde will be
addressed in the following lectures. The final lecture will offer an
insight into women’s artistic work created after the fall of the
Berlin Wall.
For many people in the United States Europe is simply on the other
side of the ocean. For those who think thus the course will offer a
chance to get familiar with the fact that there were really two
Europes after the Second World War: one free and one under the
totalitarian Soviet regime. The art of this latter region can be
understood only if one is familiar with the basic historical and
political context, which will be addressed in this course. The issue
of gender was also important in the Eastern European art worlds.
Although women artists lived in a socialist society in which – as
they were told – gender equality was achieved, often encountered
sexual discrimination and hostility. Artwork produced in this region
also reveals the acknowledged problems of masculine dominancy and
the objectification of women. This course will broaden students’
awareness of the interdependence of arts and politics and reveal how
visual representations of gender are formulated, and promulgated.