During my visit to the Art Gallery of NSW, I learnt a lot about 19th century art and how some of the paintings were inspired by literature.

A few of the paintings I liked also gave me insight into the historical context of the Romantic period, such as the variety of social classes and how the social status of a woman can affect her role in society. This is evident in how women are depicted in Frederic Lord Leighton’s painting ‘Cymon & Iphigenia’ and Sir Lawrence Alam-Tadema’s painting ‘Cleopatra’ in contrast to how women are depicted in Leighton’s other painting ‘Winding the Skein’ and Edwin Long’s painting ‘A Dorcas Meeting’.

It is apparent that the men in these two paintings are admiring the beauty of the women around them which reflects the women’s royal like status. The women’s pose, posture and environment in both paintings also reflect their royal like status and show that women in the upper class were not productive, as they didn’t have to work. In contrast, the women of the middle class in the paintings below are working and are compassionately cooperating with one another, which shows that women in the working class are much more productive than the upper class.

These paintings also suggests that it’s not all about beauty, and that women are capable of pursuing professional careers, and are needed in a working society, which implicitly reveals the socio-cultural issues that existed in the 19th century as women weren’t granted the right to an education.