From 18 June 2019 in the Musée d'Orsay
Evidence exists of the presence of women artists in workshops in the Middle Ages and there are many examples of women throughout the 16th and 17th centuries who worked with their fathers, brothers and husbands in particular.
In the late 18th century, women acquired higher visibility and enjoyed greater freedom.
In the second half of the 19th century, following a period of decline, the number of women artists rose and more women opted to work in the arts. Until this point, their artistic talents had flourished mainly within the home environment. Painting was an amateur pursuit and, like music, it was a charming accomplishment for wellbred young women.
A career path was available to women from modest backgrounds, but was restricted to techniques and subjects in the applied arts. They attended City of Paris drawing schools, for
example, whose main function was to supply painters for artistic industries and factories such as the Gobelins and Sèvres porcelain works, where they painted flowers and decorative motifs.
They could also train with one of the renowned masters who admitted women to their studios. The most famous of these in the 1870s were Chaplin and Carolus-Duran. However, these fee-paying classes were attended by young women from affluent backgrounds. Women were also very well represented as copyists until the end of the Second Empire.
Copies were the cornerstone of an artist’s training, and they were also required to decorate public, civic and religious buildings. In this respect, the
admission of women to the Académie Julian in 1870 was a significant event, which allowed them to embark on professional careers.
The expansion of newspapers in the 1830s gathered pace under the Third Republic with the law of 1881 relating to the freedom of the press. Art criticism in newspaper columns became a genre in its own right. It was initially the preserve of men and was particularly focused on the annual painting and sculpture Salon.
It was the province of writers and poets, and included some milestone texts such as Baudelaire’s writing on Delacroix, and Zola on Manet. The illustrated press also regularly featured caricatures, some of which still ridiculed the inclusion of women artists in the Salon and exhibitions. In turn, women began to add their voices to “approved” opinions, sharing their views on works by male and female artists alike, perhaps with greater impartiality and less condescension. They delivered their assessments in precise analyses and expressed fewer prejudices associated with artists’ gender. The most famous among them were Claire Christine de Charnacé (1830-1912), who wrote under the pseudonym C. de Sault in Le Temps from 1863, and Marie Amélie de Montifaud (1849-1912) in L'Artiste, under the pseudonym Marc, a male name designed to confer gravitas and respectable discretion.
Some women, who were themselves artists, also became biographers. They include Lucie Cousturier (1876-1925), who published books about Signac and the Neo-Impressionists, with whom her work is associated.
I were to say that women are excluded from the École des Beaux-Arts, as they are from almost everywhere. […] what we need is to be able to work like men and not have to perform all manner of feats to achieve what men simply enjoy.”
In the absence of official tuition, young women from affluent families trained with private tutors. Women from more modest backgrounds attended the Académie Julian or the Académie Colarossi, like Camille Claudel prior to joining Auguste Rodin’s studio. Women’s lessons cost twice as much as men’s. Hélène Bertaux founded the Union des femmes peintres et sculpteurs (UFPS) and fought for the admission of women to the École des Beaux-Arts. Women were not allowed to sit the entrance examination until 1897; women’s studios were not established until 1900; and it was 1903 before they were eligible for the Prix de Rome, the cornerstone of training there. The first woman to win a Prix de Rome was in fact a sculptress, Lucienne Heuvelmans, in 1911.
An employee in a hat shop is wooed by a forward woman who lures him away from his family home and takes his virginity in a hotel room. However, when he becomes the father of a large family, he leads a rebellion against female power and restores the traditional social order. In this fictional tale directed by the first ever woman film-maker, roles are (briefly) reversed as the genders adopt each other’s traits and inhabit each other’s worlds. Is Alice Guy (1873-1968) expressing the anxiety caused by the rise of suffragette activity? Or is she using ex treme scenarios and humour to denounce the arbitrary nature of the dominance exerted by men?
Silent film, black and white, Société des Etablissements Gaumont production
Discover some one hundred works on the tour in the permanent collections. They are signposted by three distinctive exhibit labels with commentary designed by students in the science and technology of design and applied arts classes at the Lycée Édouard Branly in Amiens.
Objects and documents from collections provide historical and sociological context relating to women’s access to the institutional art world.
The exhibition traces the exceptional career of a painter who defied the conventions of her time and social background and became a key figure in Parisian avant-garde circles from the late 1860s until her death in 1895.