Author, freelance designer and illustrator Gloria Kamen knows this all too well.Her
exhibit at the University's Andersen Library features portraits of 22 famous composers, varying from Beethoven to Brahms to Bernstein.Also present in the collection, though, are the portraits of 10 female composers, their names lesser-known than many of the men.
Propaganda for women
It is the portraits, and more importantly the lives, of the female composers that concern Kamen
"I want (viewers of the exhibit) to be able to read and recognize the names of the women composers when they see them in the future," Kamen
said."It's a little bit of propaganda for the women, I might say."
Some of the women, most notably Clara Wieck Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, have surnames that any classical music aficionado might recognize - but it's often the work of their fathers and brothers that is celebrated, Kamen
Mendelssohn is also the subject of a children's book written and illustrated by Kamen
in 1996, "Hidden Music: The Life of Fanny Mendelssohn."
Through the years, Kamen
has illustrated more than 40 books and especially enjoys working with biographies.
In the case of Mendelssohn, Kamen
said her father thought it was demeaning for women to perform publicly.
tried to imagine her
subjects were actually alive and posing in front of her
"It was ridiculous," Kamen
said."That was the kind of atmosphere she
lived in, one in which women had to fight for the recognition they deserved."
In contrast to Fanny Mendelssohn, Schumann was forced by her father to perform musically for her entire life, Kamen
The watercolors hanging in the Andersen Library's gallery
were a project Kamen
undertook for herself, finishing the last of the 22 portraits approximately a year ago.
"Since it was my own project, I could do whatever I wanted," she
emphasizes that there was a process involved in creating the portraits, one that began with biographical research.
"With each one, I learned an awful lot.I enjoy my work," she
Because many of the composers lived in times when there was only black and white photography, or none at all, Kamen
had to guess about exact hair colors.In the instances in which there were only illustrations available, "a lot of quick decisions had to be made" in terms of representation, she said, and sometimes she created two or three versions of the same composer.
"I had friends who were music-lovers tell me which version was the nicest," she
Twenty-Two Watercolor Portraits of Men and women Composers by Gloria Kamen
did in nearly all of the pieces, her
blouse and the background were cut from another patterned paper, giving the works a modern and whimsical collage element.
In contrast, Schumann's expression and the gray-and-blue palette with which she
was painted reflect a deep-rooted sense of melancholy.She
stares into the distance, looking lonely despite her
An ongoing project Kamen, 82, says she will continue to research the biographies of female composers in the future, possibly adding to her collection of portraits. She
often speaks at the places her
work is shown, making sure her
"talks revolve around the women, not the men." She
also urges musicians she
meets to add the work of female composers to their playlists, in an often belated attempt to give equal time to women's compositions.