The look in their eyes

There's a certain kind of pensive sadness that I'm drawn to in portraits and portrayals of women. I like that vaguely troubled, introspective look. But there's also an underlying strength to these portraits.


The character of Teresa in Unbearable Lightness in particular reminds me of this. Or Joan Fontaine in Hitchcock's Rebecca. I also think Manet's Olympia has this look, juxtaposed against her naked defiance. It's one of my favourite paintings of all time and I cried when I first saw it in the Musee d'Orsay.


I was thinking about this last week... I often look at those shiny happy Kate Spade-style portrayals of women and it all seems so much more straightforward. There's a beautiful simplicity to their sunshiney happiness. But I really don't relate to it. And it disturbs me somewhat that that's the brand of happiness most often peddled on the blogosphere... To me, it's a bland, unreflective sort of Stepfordness.


When I started Inspiring Women it was in part a reaction to these kinds of portrayals. The women I feature are those who most directly inspire to me. And, without illusions of sharing their talent, there's something in each of them I relate to, a certain insecurity, but real mettle too.


I really like these pensive women so much more—I actually want to know them. And yet I sometimes catch myself thinking I ought to be more like the smiling girl holding the balloons. But, it's important to realize girl holding the balloons isn't real... She's not any woman I know. It might be a lucky and fleeting moment, but it's not a whole life...

I'll keep my uncertain eyes.


Image credits:
1. Unbearable Lightness of Being, dir. Philip Kaufman (2006)
2. Girl in Grey (1939) by Louis le Brocquy
3. Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford (1902), via
4. Young Lady by TushTush on Etsy
5. Charis Wilson by Edward Weston via
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