The pregnancy It supposes for women a very intimate physical and vital dimension, sometimes difficult to share with those who cannot live it. Art can function as a tool to express the multiple complexities of the maternal experience and approach them with exceptional naturalness in an iconography usually dominated by men. It is the idea that sustains ‘maternity‘, the new exhibition, curated by Alex Mitrani, which will host the National Museum of Art of Catalonia (MNAC) until September 25, supported mainly by works of Nuria Pompeia.
The exhibition, which rediscovers other artists, like her, forgotten –Mari Chordà, Roser Bru and Parvine Curie-, takes its name from the iconic book published in 1967 (now republished by Kairós) by the pompeia (1931-2015)pioneer of feminist humorous illustration in our country and a leading militant in the women’s rights movement since the late 1960s.
The 78 original drawings from the first edition of ‘Maternasis’ are now the focus of the MNAC exhibition, illustrating it with scenes that show, without romanticism, the usual situations experienced by women during pregnancy and childbirth. “Núria Pompeia’s drawings reflect the way in which women live their feminine lives personally and in society -says Mitrani-. They are by the best acquisitions that this museum has been able to carry out”, in addition to signifying another step in the construction of the MNAC’s Postwar and Second Vanguard Art collection.
The style of these illustrations is characterized by a very simple line, which at the same time plays a lot with whites and with the introduction of external elements through the ‘collage’ technique. Drawings that are organized in a chronological series that shows the development of pregnancy in women.
From nausea to childbirth
It begins with the first nausea and a picture that captures the invasiveness of the gynecological visits where she feels exposed and vulnerable. She goes through phases where her belly is much more prominent and she finds it difficult to even tie her shoes. And she ends up in one maternity ward full of bouquets of flowers, with a protagonist who is overwhelmed by the situation, representing that uncertainty with the presence in the drawing of a large baby in collage format.
The expression of astonishment with which Pompeia draws the woman in her illustrations is surprising. In none of them can you see her mouth because he always covers it with her hand in a show of permanent surprise. This symbolizes the protagonist’s reaction to the constant physical changes that she experiences in her body due to pregnancy, and at the same time corresponds to a gesture that was very common in the artist herself, according to those who were closest to her.
But there is a scene in which this hand rests on the woman’s lips as a sign of asking for silence: it occurs in the only drawing in which the presence of a man is sensed. A male arm with a suit sleeve that touches the belly of the pregnant woman, but not in the form of a caress, but with the intention of control. It does not appear drawn, it is a piece of ‘collage’ because it is an external, isolated figure. It is she who, with her expression, asks for calm, as a sign of protection for that new life.
“In this exhibition, the men look for a few seconds and then pass by, they are the ones who stop and take photos. It’s curious, because it should be a show of interest for everyone,” says Mitrani.
The collection also has three more works dedicated to the mysterious and profound dimension of pregnancy. ‘Woman with her parts’, a painting in which the Catalan Roser Bru (1923-2001) tries to transmit the energy and power that the naked body of a woman gives off. ‘Pregnant self-portrait’, by Mari Chorda (1942), a set of three canvases that symbolizes with abstraction and vibrant colors the organic phases of gestation. And the ‘Mère’ statuettes, from Parvine Turine (1936), prehistoric-inspired totems that show women as receptacles for children, evoking a religious conception of fertility.
Curated by: Alex Mitrani
From April 28 to September 25