Define the theme of "In An Artist's Studio" by Christina Rossetti.  

The theme of "In An Artist's Studio" by Christina Rossetti is the objectification of women by a male painter. He paints his model according to his own "dream" of what he wants a woman to be, "not as she is." The sonnet's speaker objects to this false depiction of women.

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In "In the Artist's Studio's" the theme is the objectification and distortion of women under the male gaze. This is sonnet, a poetic form from its beginnings given to projecting male fantasies and idealizations about women. In it, the speaker speaks of a "face" or "figure" (body parts rather than a person) that a male artist paints. The woman in his paintings, whether in an "opal" or a "ruby" dress, is always the same. She is always a "nameless girl," always depicted as "a saint, an angel."

The speaker notes the painter "feeds" on this figure as if he were a cannibal. She is reduced to an object he uses for his own needs. The reality of who she is—"wan with waiting...with sorrow dim"—is erased as the artist depicts her to fulfill a fantasy of what he wants a woman to be. She is painted:

Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

The repetition of "not as she is" emphasizes the theme of the slippage between reality and fantasy.

This sonnet,...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1033 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 21, 2020