This thesis is sited in contemporary issues concerning gender and identity in relation to the arts. It aims to examine the nature of the family and the extent to which relationships and identities in the family might be analogous to the relations of fine art; these include relations between the artist and the artwork, between what is defined as 'art' and what is not, between the artwork and the viewer. It also touches on some of the other, innumerable relationships encountered in the arts: relations of materials form, feeling, thinking and making. The thesis contains a discussion of the nature of family identities and relationships based on my own experiences in the mid-twentieth century and today. Families are at first divided into two main types, nonnative and ethicaL These types represent the difference between ideal or stereotypical family relations and the way families actually live in practice. Analogies are made between normative families and traditional modes of defining art and ethical family relations and ethical notions of art. In the last chapter I suggest that relations that are core and normative are linked to marginal relations through ethical links made by liminal figures that pass between them. Although issues of identity, patriarchy and binary difference appear in theoretical writings on art criticism and practice, there appears to be little contemporary debate in these issues in relation to the family and its relationships. The thesis begins to map out the terrain of such a field of enquiry.

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