“Women Artists in Paris 1850–1900” To Begin National Tour at Denver Art Museum

New York, NY (March 16, 2017): The groundbreaking exhibition Women Artists in Paris 1850–1900 broadly surveys a key chapter in art history in which an international group of female artists overcame gender-based restrictions to make remarkable creative strides. Featuring more than eighty paintings by thirty-seven artists from thirteen countries, drawn from prominent collections across the United States and abroad, this exhibition presents renowned artists such as Berthe Morisot (French), Mary Cassatt (American), and Rosa Bonheur (French) alongside lesser-known yet equally important peers including Anna Ancher (Danish), Lilla Cabot Perry (American), and Paula Modersohn-Becker (German). Women Artists in Paris 1850-1900 is curated by Laurence Madeline and organized by the American Federation of Arts. It will be presented at the Denver Art Museum, Colorado (October 22, 2017–January 14, 2018), the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky (February 17–May 13, 2018), and the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (June 9–September 3, 2018).

Pauline Willis, director of the American Federation of Arts, notes: “We are very proud to showcase the works of these pioneering women who overcame immense obstacles to advance their art. The timeliness of this exhibition is inescapable, as women today continue to face barriers in the arts and beyond.”

During the mid-nineteenth century, Paris was the epicenter of the art world, luring artists from around the globe to its academies, museums, salons, and galleries. Scores of women artists traveled to the French capital to develop their art and further their careers, yet despite the city’s cosmopolitan character, gender norms remained strikingly conservative. Only later in the century did French women gain such fundamental rights as receiving a secondary education (1879), opening a bank account (1881), and obtaining legal guardianship of their children (1907). Furthermore, women were not allowed to attend the École des Beaux-Arts—the country’s most important art academy—until 1897. Barred from this prestigious institution, and largely unable to participate in the Salon system, women pursued alternative venues by attending private academies, exhibiting independently, and forming their own organizations, such as the influential Union des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs in 1881.

Moral and social stigmas also hindered women’s full participation in the period’s artistic circles. Taboos against females being seen in public without a chaperone limited their access to certain spaces and narrowed the range of subjects they could represent. History painting, the foremost genre of the Academy, relied on accurate depictions of nude or draped figures, but as most women artists had scant opportunities to study from nude models, many instead gravitated toward avant-garde movements. Such work often emphasized genre scenes, the models for which could be found in the domestic sphere.

Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 expands our understanding of this rich art historical period and demonstrates the formative role women artists played in the major currents of European Modernism, including Realism, Impressionism, and Symbolism. The forward-thinking women represented in this exhibition not only created powerful paintings but also generated a momentum that has led toward a more egalitarian art world.

Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism, Denver Art Museum, Colorado (October 22, 2017–January 14, 2018)
Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism, Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky (February 17–May 13, 2018)
Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (June 9–September 3, 2018)

Laurence Madeline is an independent curator and former Chief Curator of the fine arts division of the Musées d’art et d’histoire (MAH), Geneva. She served as Director of the Musée Léon Dierx, Saint-Denis de La Réunion; curator at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; and, from 2000 to 2006, curator at the Musée Picasso, Paris. Her exhibitions include Courbet: les années suisses (2014, MAH); James Ensor (2009–10, Musée d’Orsay and Museum of Modern Art, New York); Picasso-Manet (2008–9, Musée d’Orsay); and Picasso-Ingres (2004, Musée Picasso and Musée Ingres), among others.

Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 will be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, featuring an introductory overview by guest curator Laurence Madeline and contributions by Bridget Alsdorf, Jane R. Becker, Joëlle Bolloch, Vibeke Waallan Hansen, and Richard Kendall. Topics addressed include the influential work of women Impressionists; representations of the female artist in portraiture; the unique experiences of Nordic women artists; and the significant presence women artists occupied in the annual Paris Salon. The book is published by the American Federation of Arts in association with Yale University Press.

Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 is organized by the American Federation of Arts and curated by independent curator Laurence Madeline.

The exhibition is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding is provided by the JFM Foundation, the Florence Gould Foundation, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Steph and Jody La Nasa, Victoria Ershova Triplett, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and the Finlandia Foundation.

Support for the accompanying publication provided by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit organization founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts.

PRESS CONTACT: Natalie Espinosa, nespinosa@amfedarts.org / (212) 988.7700


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