Simone de Beauvoir was a philosopher, novelist and French essayist.
She was often considered an important theorist of feminism and participated in the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s.
She shared philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s life without getting ever married. She regarded marriage as a bourgeois institution almost as disgusting as prostitution where the woman is under the domination of her husband and can not escape.
With Sartre and some left intellectuals, she founded a magazine “Les Temps Modernes” (Modern Times) which aims to raise awareness about existentialism through contemporary literature.
Since she advocates her commitment to communism and existentialism in essays, she could afford her financial independence. She devoted herself entirely to her profession as a writer.
She traveled to many countries (USA, China, Russia, Cuba …) where she meets with communist personalities. In the US, she started a secret and passionate relationship with the American writer, Nelson Algren to whom she will write more than 300 letters.
In 1949, she was officially acclaimed when publishing “The Second Sex”.
The essay, translated into several languages, happened to be a best seller with million copies sold in the United States.
Beauvoir became the figurehead of feminism by describing a society that keeps women in an inferior position. In 1954, she won the French literature award “le Prix Goncourt” for “The Mandarins” and she became to be one of the widest feminism authors read in the world. She was constantly studying the world in which she lived by visiting factories and institutions, with the meeting with workers and political leaders.
Freedom, Equality and Women’s Rights would remain her main fights.
The text all around the painting says, “The free woman is being born”. It is the essence of the essay “The Second Sex (1949)” in which de Beauvoir says “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”. It is also a way for Armelle Falliex to re-contextualize Simone de Beauvoir feminism ideology nowadays. She says women are just at the beginning of their freedom.
The formal aspect of these large red words that occupy almost half of the surface of the painting fits totally with who was Simone de Beauvoir, an intellectual. She used words to tell, words to fight.
Besides, Falliex shows Beauvoir’s face at an advanced age by drawing a deep dark eye circle. We also notice some sadness. Falliex shows the ambiguity of Beauvoir, who was plagued by internal struggle. She was both the figurehead of feminism and also some submissive woman because of her love for an American writer Nelson Algren -we learned it after her death- Yes, life is not that simple… BCh