Thursday, August 15, 2019

Challenges Faced by Women in Art Academies

There are quite a few photos of female art students in 19th century academic ateliers.

Female art students at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Sweden
So women had it good, right? But according to academic teacher Sadie Valeri, circumstances for women weren't as ideal as they appear:
"Women were not allowed into the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris until 1898. Until the very late 1800's, women were not able to become professional artists. They could paint as a hobby, but they could not accept money for commissions or sell work. Until the very late 1800's women could not study the live nude model. The small commercial studios that allowed women (like the Academies Julian in Paris) charged women double the tuition men paid, and so those schools were highly profitable." 
Maybe the reason there were so many photos of female students was that the photos served as a form of advertising, inducing wealthy families to send their daughters to study in the expensive ateliers in Paris.

Marie Bashkirtseff, In the Studio
Berthe Morisot
Women were strongly encouraged to pursue flower painting, miniatures, still life, portraiture, or landscape, which were considered minor genres.

Once they had access to live models, they could begin to pursue paintings from history and mythology, which were considered more important.

According to Nicole Myers of NYU, "women artists were virtually excluded from state commissions and purchases as well as from participation in official competitions such as the coveted Prix de Rome, a prestigious scholarship offered to history painters for continued study at the French Academy in Rome."

A woman pursuing an independent career in art was a destabilizing threat to upper-class society. The private instructor to the young sisters Edma and Berthe Morisot told their mother:

“Considering the characters of your daughters, my teaching will not endow them with minor drawing room accomplishments, they will become painters. Do you realize what this means? In the upper-class milieu to which you belong, this will be revolutionary, I might say almost catastrophic.”  
Read more:
Book: Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900
Previous related posts:
Thesleff's Echo
Studying Art in Paris, 1902
The Ups and Downs of Anna BiliƄska-Bohdanowicz
Juana Romani, Artist and Model
Advice for Anna Ancher
Nicole Myers. “Women Artists in Nineteenth-Century France.”
Sadie Valeri atelier


gronkchicago said...

Thanks for including the photo of Berthe Morisot. Her painting Woman At Her Toilette is in the Art Institute Of Chicago and is one of my favorites that I always make a point of stopping at when I'm there. It's incredibly sensual and and just a joy to behold. I'll keep an eye out for that book.

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Unknown said...

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CerverGirl said...

Thank goodness things have changed and I have access to models now. It is a great time to be an artist.
Thank you for the post.

Lizabeth said...

This is interesting but I am curious about women artists in England at the same time. Would Turner have welcomed a talented woman artist?

Andra said...

It was a competition for commissions, patrons, money and fame. Keeping women out of the running was self-serving. I wonder that there don't appear to be any women artists living as men that we know of, as there seem to be examples in many other fields, including the military.

Kalinysta said...

I took a wonderful course at East Tennessee State University entitled Women in Art History and everything you noted in your essay and then some was spot on. I still have some of the books used as part of the course. With regard to Andra's comment about "I wonder that there don't appear to be any women artists living as men that we know of, as there seem to be examples in many other fields, including the military", she should look up the following women artists who did just that, the most famous of which is Rosa Bonheur, who may or may not have been a Lesbian. (see wikipedia entry on The Horse Fair . I would also suggest the book Women Artists: 1550-1950 as an excellent introduction to women artists.

Megan said...

Rosa Bonheur is one of my favorites!

Megan said...

Rosa Bonheur is one of my favorites.