NAPOLEON IN PETTICOATS
“Very early I decided to become a hero. Who would I be? George Sand? Joan of Arc? Napoleon in petticoats?.”
Faced with the inequality of opportunities presented to women, and the absence of female role models with whom she could identify, Saint Phalle decided from an early age to “become a heroine”. Reading The Second Sex (1949) by Simone de Beauvoir had a profound impact on her. Preceding women’s rights movements by a few years, Saint Phalle was one of the first artists of her time to make women her subjects; she treated them in all their complexity, both as victims of the confinements of the feminine condition, and as potential heroines of a new world that had yet to be created. Her assemblages, with evocative titles like Bride, Birth, Prostitute, Witch, Goddess, are still striking in their radicalism and in their ambivalence. They must be examined closely; the objects she used to create them are carefully chosen and placed, either distinctly isolated or accumulated in areas.