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Ajarb Bernard Ategwa

Netflix, Rembrandt, Hitchcock: Why is art obsessed with the woman in the window?

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The cultural motif has inspired works from Renaissance paintings of the Virgin Mary to studies of sex workers. A new show at Dulwich Picture Gallery explores what unites them

It’s the title of one of the most spectacularly bad films in recent memory, the subject of countless paintings and some of the most heart-wrenching images of the pandemic. “The woman in the window” is one of the most potent and enduring cultural motifs of all.

But what does it mean? This is the question at the heart of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s fascinating new exhibition, curated by Dr Jennifer Sliwka, a Baroque and Italian Renaissance specialist with a flair for thematic, trans-historical exhibitions, such as her National Gallery show Monochrome in 2017. Here, she “reframes” the theme as it recurs across ages, places and cultures, in eight sections of more than 40 objects, including work by Rembrandt, Louise Bourgeois, Rachel Whiteread, Edgar Degas, Walter Sickert, David Hockney and Marina Abramovic.

Ajarb Bernard Ategwa, ‘Posing with my Parrot’, 2021 (Photo: Jack Bell Gallery)

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