A phenomenological study of Taiwanese lesbians viewing female figures in paintings


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As a response to the lack of academic attention paid to the relationship between lesbian spectatorship and aesthetic perceptions of paintings, this study is an inquiry into the Taiwanese lesbian experience of viewing paintings containing female figures. Descriptions and themes regarding the phenomenon were generated through semi-structured, in-person interviews with twenty participants according to phenomenologist van Manen’s existential methods. Each participant took part in a minimum of two interviews. The first aimed to explore their previous experiences of viewing original paintings. The second examined how participants selected and made sense of the images of paintings they had chosen. The findings showed that, firstly, participants were able to draw connections to themselves, other women, and the spaces occupied by women in a wider patriarchal society through the act of viewing female figures in paintings. Secondly, participants demonstrated a high awareness of issues surrounding gender and other inequalities, which they often derived from female figures in paintings that they selected. The experience of viewing paintings can be considered a safe place of self-discovery, thereby promoting paintings as a platform for initiating discussions related to social and gender issues. Thus, this study not only sheds light on a group of people underrepresented in the visual arts and art education, but it also offers a unique, intimate understanding of the lived experiences of Taiwanese lesbians. Copyright © 2023 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Homosexuality
Early online dateJun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jun 2023


Tzeng, Y.-H. (2023). A phenomenological study of Taiwanese lesbians viewing female figures in paintings. Journal of Homosexuality. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2023.2217316


  • Taiwan
  • Lesbian
  • Female figure
  • Painting
  • Phenomenology
  • PG student publication


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