Exhibition | Pride and Prejudice: Female Artists in France and Sweden

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 1, 2012

Press release from Sweden’s Nationalmuseum in Stockholm:

Pride and Prejudice: Female Artists in France and Sweden 1750–1860
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 27 September 2012 — 20 January 2013

Constance Marie Charpentier, Melancholy, 1810
(Amiens: Musée de Picardie)

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Pride and Prejudice – Female Artists in France and Sweden 1750–1860 explores conditions for female artists in France and Sweden during a period of revolutionary social change. The exhibition presents works by some of the French and Swedish women who managed to establish themselves as artists and create a name for themselves at this time. Works by amateurs are also on display, since women of higher standing were expected to master skills such as drawing and embroidery.

The exhibition includes six works by Marie Suzanne Giroust. She was married to artist Alexander Roslin and is The Lady with the Veil in his well-known painting of that name. During her lifetime, she was also a recognised figure, but she later came to be omitted from art history, a fate that she shares with many other female artists. Today only 19 of her works can be identified with any certainty. Giroust was one of the few women to be inducted into France’s Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in the late 18th century. Its members had the exclusive opportunity to showcase works at the Salon in Paris, the most important exhibition in France at the time. Within the Royal Academy, there was staunch opposition to female artists. In the mid-18th century, a ceiling was introduced that permitted no more than four members of this gender at any one time.

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Portrait of a Woman, 1787 (Musée des beaux-arts de Quimper)

During this period, family ties or social relations to male artists were crucial in determining women’s opportunities for training and inclusion in the art establishment. Giroust was accepted into the Royal Academy for her high artistic quality, but her husband’s prominence was no doubt also a significant factor. The same was true for other female members: Anne Vallayer-Coster, Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard were all under Royal patronage and Marie Thérèse Reboul was married to the director of the French Academy in Rome. In Sweden too, female artists were unable to access the training offered by the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. Ulrica Fredrica Pasch became the first female member of the Royal Academy in 1773. She was apprenticed to her father, portraitist Lorens Pasch the Elder, and her brother Lorens Pasch the Younger was a professor and director of the Royal Academy. Once again, family ties and relations to established artists were a precondition for admission.

After the French Revolution, the Salon was opened up to all artists. Art was broadened out, enabling women to exhibit on the same terms as men. At the same time, the revolution caused the well-heeled customers to disappear, which affected incomes and the chances of finding good patrons. Women were also still excluded from all public art-related education. Their only chance was to enrol at private art schools such as the studios of Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Baptiste Regnauld. Some of the most eminent female artists had their own students, but these were all women. Soon these exclusively female studios in Paris also began to attract Swedish students.

During the first half of the 19th century, more and more women were able to step out of the shadows and see their career follow an increasingly professional course. In certain areas, such as French miniature painting, women led the field. Portraits were a path to both fame and fortune and, coupled with genre painting, came to form an important area for women artists. Leading figures during the first half of the 17th century include Cécile Hortense Haudebourt-Lescot and Marguerite Gérard in France, and Maria Röhl, Sophie Adlersparre and Amalia Lindegren in Sweden. Women gained the formal right to become fully-fledged students at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 1864, which is why the exhibition has taken this particular decade as its cut-off point.

Pride and Prejudice is a joint venture with Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, where several of the French works have featured in the exhibition Royalists to Romantics. In Stockholm, they will be complemented with key loans from France plus works from Nationalmuseum and other collections. For many of the works, this will be their first appearance before a Swedish audience. The exhibition comprises around 250 objects, from works in oils and pastels to drawings, miniatures and embroidered artworks. The artists on show include Marie Suzanne Giroust, Anne Vallayer-Coster, Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Marie Thérèse Reboul, Cécile Hortense Haudebourt-Lescot, Marguerite Gérard, Ulrica Fredrica Pasch, Maria Röhl, Sophie Adlersparre and Amalia Lindegren.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue containing articles written by various Swedish and international specialists. Magnus Olausson, Eva-Lena Bengtsson, Barbro Werkmäster, Eva-Lena Bergström, Eva-Lena Karlsson and Solfrid Söderlind are among the Swedish authors.

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Theme Day

Sunday, 14 October, 1–3 pm
(Program will be announced later in September)


Thursday, 17 January, 6 pm
Royalists and Revolutionaries: Women Artists and the French Revolution, lecture by Laura Auricchio, Associate Professor of Art History, Parsons The New School for Design. In English.

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