Women artists leave their reserve
The primary objective of this exhibition is to get the Women Artists out of their reserves.
Steeped in history
From the sixteenth century on, a few women, mainly Italian, made their mark on the artistic scene. In France, artistic institutions are linked to the Academy, created in 1648, which opened – sparingly - to women from 1663, and a little more widely in the following century. The Academy closed to women in the nineteenth century. A few “energetic women still managed to study seriously and produce intense and original works,” said Virginie Demont-Breton, president of the Union des Femmes Peintre et Sculpteur, and activist for opening the Academy to women.
The place of women artists in France in the 19th century
The main exhibition venue in Paris is the Salon, which is also under the responsibility of the Académie. While the jury of the Salon tends to strengthen the influence of the Academy, a growing number – but relatively speaking – of women manage to be admitted. In the years 1800-1830, they never represented less than 14% of exhibitors. But they lost ground and by 1855 they would represent only 6.7%. By 1880 they had more than 600 exhibitors, but they represented only 12.5% of the total number of participating artists. It is at the Salon that the State buys, often to deposit in regional museums.
Build its fame
The impressionists, a group of artists to which three women belong: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt and Marie Bracquemond, try to escape the monopoly of the Academy. If their aesthetics shock, their independent approach is widely praised. In 1881, the state decided to liberalize the situation: artists' associations and salons multiplied, invested by many women. The State does not disdain to buy works there, sometimes from women, including foreign artists who, although having made their entire career in France, and often being dead and buried there, are today totally unknown. Who remembers Sweden’s Julia Beck, Britain’s Beatrice How, Poland’s Olga Boznanska and America’s Elisabeth Nourse? However, the works of these artists are kept in museums in France. Some, for fear of never being represented in our public collections, offer works to the French state, such as the American Mary Cassatt and Cecilia Beaux.
Be present in public collections
Three women, still French, offer all their collections to create museums. One was a painter, Nélie Jacquemart, creator of the Jacquemart-André museum in Paris. The second, Marie Grobet, initiated the Grobet-Labadie Museum in Marseille. Jeanne Magnin, who practices enamel on glass, constitutes with her brother Maurice an important collection of works of art. Jeanne Magnin meut in 1937, her brother two years later. Maurice bequeathed their collection to the State. The museum will long bear the only name of Maurice Magnin. More recently, there was the prestigious legacy of actress Jacqueline Delubac (1907–1997) at the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts.
Increase the visibility of women artists' collections
The representation of women in the collective catalogue of the collections of the museums of France, Joconde, is a reflection of this history. Out of a total of 511,979 entries from nearly 35,000 artists, there are 2,304 women artists, with 20,575 works. They therefore represent 6.6% of the artists in the database, with 4% of the number of works. Even though they are very small, these percentages for July 2021 are nonetheless higher than the figures known for the second half of the nineteenth century. In France, they were 3,818, or 1.74% of the artists listed...
May this virtual exhibition encourage the online publication of records and images of works of women artists preserved in the museums of France.
If it also leads to studies, publications and exhibitions, which are not virtual, then we will have achieved our second objective.
Anne-Solène Rolland, head of the French Museum Service
Visit the exhibition
Discover the chronology of the imprint of women artists in the history of French art from the Ancien Régime to the present day.
This chapter deals particularly with these questions: How are women artists formed and made known? Have they distinguished themselves in particular subjects? What has been their place in public commissions, patronage and institutions?
Artisans, engravers, draftsmen and printers, painters, photographers and sculptors, women artists - and inspirators - have distinguished themselves in all forms of art.
This chapter focuses on the quest for recognition of women as artists and full-fledged citizens.
Find on these pages the biographical notes of the women artists listed in this exhibition.
A sitography, a bibliography and a memo of the key dates of the history of women artists are proposed here.