Sylvia Sleigh

Interview with Sylvia Sleigh, 2008 February 28
Interview with Sylvia Sleigh, 2008 February 28

Sylvia Sleigh (b.1916) moved to the United States from Wales in the 1960s. She is perhaps best known for her feminist parodies of iconic paintings which incorporate gender reversal in famous themes. Works that allude to well-known paintings by such masters as Giorgione, Titian and Manet—who all treated the theme of the reclining Venus—depict male rather than female nudes. Similarly, Sleigh replaced Ingres’s nude women in Turkish bath scenes with bathing men. She used these works to explore the question of values attached to the traditional representations of women and men, and to draw attention to the absence in Western art of erotic portraits of men. In her many portraits of Paul Rosano, a model she painted many times in the 1970s, Sleigh satirically juxtaposed the idealized stances traditionally given to gods or figure-heads with commonplace contemporary settings.

In a 2007 interview for Myartspace, Sylvia Sleigh was asked if gender equality issues in the mainstream art world, and the world in general, had changed for the better. Sleigh answered, "I do think things have improved for women in general; there are many more women in government, in law and corporate jobs, but it’s very difficult in the art world for women to find a gallery." One of her most well known paintings, A.I.R. Group Portrait (1977), depicts the members of a gallery (to which she herself belonged) that was founded to begin addressing this inequality.

Further Reading

Sherwin, Brian. “Art Space Talk: Sylvia Sleigh.” Myartspace, 24 November 2007.

Sleigh, Sylvia. Sylvia Sleigh: Invitation to a Voyage and Other Works. Milwaukee, Wis.: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1990.