Suppress a woman and the world is deprived of her genius. That lesson will resonate with 21st-century viewers of an American Federation of Arts exhibition of more than 80 bold and engaging paintings by 19th-century women from the United States and across Europe.
“Women had to fight to be behind the easel,” says Laurence Madeline, French National Museums chief curator and curator of “Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism.”
Women, who, like men, converged on Paris when it was the center of the international art world, were barred from the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts until 1897. Some schools charged women double tuition, assuming they were supported by family and not serious artists, and restricted their curricula. Societal mores prevented women painters from roaming the countryside in search of subjects and kept their work from receiving its proper recognition. Now women have entered the academy and the workplace in art and other fields, but too often they are hobbled by harassment and abuse.
Some of the canvases Ms. Madeline had wanted to include in “Her Paris” were too damaged by neglect. Other works have been lost. “Her Paris” could encourage better preservation, Madeline says, adding that that had been the result of a 2014 show that two French museums devoted to artist Marie Petiet. The Denver Art Museum recently bought a lively oil-on-canvas of two young girls on a balcony by Eva Gonzales. The works of both Frenchwomen are included in Madeline’s “Her Paris.” “There is hope,” Madeline said. “But there is still work to be done.”
“Her Paris” is in Denver until Jan. 14, 2018, and will be at The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., (Feb. 17-May 13) and at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., (June 6-Sept. 3).