Saturday, July 21, 2018

Painting by Elizabeth Nourse

Study, circa 1895 by Elizabeth Nourse (American, 1859-1938)
Elizabeth Nourse was one of the most accomplished French-trained American painters. According to Wikipedia:
"She was one of the "New Women" of the 19th century successful, highly trained women artists who never married, like Ellen Day Hale, Mary Cassatt, Elizabeth Coffin and Cecilia Beaux.[7] Hale, Nourse, and Coffin "created compelling self-portraits in which they fearlessly presented themselves as individuals willing to flout social codes and challenge accepted ideas regarding women's place in society. Indeed, the New Women portraits of the 1880s and 1890s are unforgettable interpretations of energetic, self-confident and accomplished women."[8]"


Susan Krzywicki said...

What does the point about their never having married have to do with anything? Why does Wikipedia point this out? Would an article about a bunch of male artists refer to their marital status in the same way?

arturoquimico said...

Today marital status may be irrelevant; however, during the late 1800's if women married they would forgo any career, be subject to social gossip, and probably not have the time to devote to the arts or a professional position. My grandparents were of that era and that's the way they saw it. I think the writer is pointing out that these women had made an even greater sacrifice for their craft. I also think folks write about male marital status... read about John Singer Sargent or Pablo Picasso and you'll see some interesting items / speculation in the marital status category...

Paul Sullivan said...

You have posted the work of some magnificent late 19th century painters. I hate to say it but some of them I have never even heard of before. I was in art school in the late 50s when abstract non-objective art was taught as a religion. In fact, it wasn’t even taught. Students were set adrift—as Pittenger would probably say.

This painting by Elizabeth Nourse is a beautiful, sensitive work that deserves attention. I would appreciate knowing more of your personal thoughts about this era and painters like Nourse.


James Gurney said...

Susan, Arturo, and Paul, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Susan, good point. In those days I suppose a man could be either single or married and pursue a career in art, but I imagine it was harder for a woman to pursue painting while also being married. I recommend Alice Carter's book on the Red Rose Girls (Oakley, Green, and Smith), three American Illustrators who were students of Howard Pyle. As working illustrators, they shared a home and studio for many years before some of them started to get married.

As for whether Nourse needed to be single to pursue a career in art, I don't know enough about her biography or the tenor of the times to venture an opinion.

Paul, on your point, not a week goes by that I don't discover a superb painter whose name I had never encountered before. I love reading art magazines from 1880 - 1920 (available on and jstor), which give me a window to an alternate universe of art compared to what the modern histories discuss. I love the role of dusting off neglected artists and telling a story or two about them. I also recommend following Linda Crank on Facebook and Charlie Parker's blog "Lines and Colors". They enjoy doing the same thing.