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Women Artists
Making an Impression

Women Artists
  • Impressionist Painting : Its Genesis and... (by )
  • Women painters of the World, from the ti... (by )
  • Women artists in all ages and countries (by )
  • Some Eminent Women of Our Times : Short ... (by )
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Throughout history, various groups of women have banded together to battle for a more egalitarian world. More recently, women and men have joined Women’s Marches and the Me Too movement and championed for narrowing the pay gap.

Art history has its own story about equality. During the later part of the 19th century, women artists fled to Paris to advance their training and augment their careers. Although there were many professional opportunities, strict social rules and limitations on training deterred them. At the time, it was considered inappropriate for women to draw from nude models, so they studied anatomy from sculpture. 

Until 1897, women were restricted from attending the influential École des Beaux-Arts school, which offered complementary training. Instead, they studied at private academies or with established artists. 

Throughout time art production was a male activity taught in various academies. The experience for women was different because a private teacher generally taught them at home. They lacked the opportunity to learn art in a broader context and thus lacked the opportunity to produce a wider array of genre. For example, if women did produce paintings, it was not necessarily oil on canvas, because it was not easily accessible at home, or easily self-taught. Artwork produced by women was then perceived as a craft rather than a fine art and not taken as seriously by the public as was their male counterparts. (p. 8) 

Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Marie Bracquemond, and Eva Gonzalès all made great contributions to the Impressionist movement. They mainly painted scenes of daily life, including landscapes and portraits. In Impressionist Painting: Its Genesis and Development, Wynford Dewhurst writes:

It has often been said that in art women cannot create: they can only assimilate and reproduce. In one sense this is true both of Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, the two principal figures in this tiny feminine group. The first was profoundly influenced by her brother-in-law Manet, the second by her teacher Degas. Marie Bracquemond and Eva Gonzalès married husbands in the practice of their art. But these women introduced into the stern methods of the early Impressionists a feminine gaiety and charm which were reflected upon the canvases of their “confrères”and produced a certain change of attitude.” (p. 77) 

Rosa Bonheur is another accomplished artist who was trained by her father, a painter. In Women Painters of the World, Walter Shaw Sparrow writes:

Rosa Bonheur gave to woman a position equal to that of a man. She won for herself unanimous admiration, based not on the singularity of her life, not on looseness of morals, not on social triumphs, not on friends at Court, but on her robust, virile, observant and well-considered talent, which in its turn was based on a primary study of anatomy and osteology, developed by a continuous observation of the constitution and the life of the animal world. (p. 181)

By Regina Molaro 

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