“Introspection” Vs. “In an Artist’s Studio”

It’s no secret that Christina Rossetti’s life was made difficult by her brothers’ use of her as a painting subject, after all her poem, “In an Artist’s Studio,” illustrates the plight of an artist’s subject. I feel as though many could point to this poem as best portraying her struggle, yet I believe Rossetti’s poem “Introspection” is what truly captures her feelings on the matter. Rossetti begins the poem with the blunt statement “I wish it were over the terrible pain,” (1) plunging the reader into the deep end of her own mind and trauma. By using first-person view, the text seems incredibly personal, as if Rossetti is relaying her feelings to the reader as a friend. It is incredibly obvious that in this poem the speaker is Rossetti, recounting her life thus far and how even through incredible pain she was able to stay standing. She even writes of said pain saying, “Let it come tenfold if it must, / But I will not groan when I bite the dust” (20). She is revealing how deeply the objectification of her face and body affects her, and how no matter how long she must endure it, she can.

“In an Artist’s Studio” certainly also illustrates Rossetti’s perspective on her life so far, but uses a third-person view when discussing the “nameless girl” (6), the subject of the portrait. It is still obvious to anyone aware of Christina Rossetti’s history that it is about herself, but Rossetti refers to her as this other being, separating herself from said subject. She even goes as far as to have the speaker refer to themself as a part of a “we,” extending the distance Rossetti puts between herself and the subject. This seems to be almost a form of dissociation for Rossetti, as one would dissociate to deal with trauma, she dissociates through her poetry. “In an Artist’s Studio” also addresses the cruelty of the artists’ gaze directly, while “Introspective” moreso deals with the resulting psychological effects dealt with by Rossetti. Both are integral to Rossetti’s story, yet “Introspective” certainly paints the picture of Rossetti’s suffering clearer.


3 thoughts on ““Introspection” Vs. “In an Artist’s Studio””

  1. I like this post but I think you can go deeper with some more close reading. The last two stanzas of the poem use anaphora, which I think can add to your “numbing” point. Why would Rossetti choose to repeat herself and these specific words? Why does she call it “torture” twice (Line 17 and 18)? There seems to be some glorification of death at the end of this poem as well, and I wonder if this adds to your point about it possibly reflecting Rossetti’s true feelings? However, I would love to know the background of this poem because it can be dangerous to assume the poetic voice reflects the poet.

  2. I think you make a good point about Christina Rossetti’s use of first-person in “Introspection.” This being said, I think her decision to use the third-person point of view in “In an Artist’s Studio” could be to discuss not only her experience as a model for the Brotherhood, but the various other models who posed for them, such as Elizabeth Siddal, who as we discussed in class, died as a result of posing in a bathtub for a painting.

  3. I like how you compared the two poems and acknowledged how both are about Rossetti’s objectification as a muse for a male artist. I think also that “The Artist’s Studio,” which, as you pointed out, uses a third-person view, could also be Rossetti realizing that her situation applies to more than one woman – for example Elizabeth Siddel. She is recognizing her situation as tragic but not uncommon, and writing about it generally to make a larger point.

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