Femmes Peintres 1780-1830 – Women artists, 1780-1793. Exhibition Review

“Je suis femme francoise & peintre; j’ai droit a votre confiance, a votre accueil & a celui du public; ma je n’accepte ni le votre, ni le sien; je veux le meriter” Avis important d’une femme sur le Salon de 1785 par Madame E.A.R.T.L.A D.C.S, 1785.

On Monday I was supposed to visit the exhibition “Femmes Peintres, 1780-1830. Naissance d’un combat” (Women Painters, 1780-1830. The birth of a battle) at the Musee du Luxembourg and I was really excited about it. First of all, I am deeply interested in women artists. Second, I adore late 18th century aesthetic. Third, Luxembourg Garden is one of my fav places in Paris so any excuse that brings me there is always welcome. I had great expectations and honestly, what could go wrong? I strained my back. Badly. Just two hours before admission time. And I am referring to that searing pain that makes you walk like Robocop – sorry, I am an ’80s girl – and does not allow you to perform in the subtle art of standing still on your feet. I did stand actually but I looked like Quasimodo dancing tip tap around in the attempt to find a bearable position. So, as you can easily guess, today my review will be slightly influenced by my physical condition – and the questionable lack of seats that usually characterized French exhibitions, including this one.

While I had the moral strength to attend the exhibition I did not have the physical endurance to stand and read all the panels so I cannot really tell you if the explanation given on site provides immediately a new perspective on these incredible women artists who first fought for their education and professional life but the works on diplay, they did reward all my efforts.

Among the some 70 paintings, you can admire portraits, landscape, war scenes… by Elisabeth Vigée-LebrunAdélaïde Labille-Guiard, Marguerite GérardConstance Mayer and others and I especially appreciated the selection of self-portraits which gave me an insight of the idea that these artists have of themselves and of their role in the society as women and painters. Once more I’ve been fascinated by the colours and completely charmed by the (sometimes crazy) outfits, the faces, the glances painted on canvas by incredibly skilled artists. I’ve heard some people complaining about the exhibition being “small” but I do not agree with them. Not just because I was desperately looking for a seat that was not available but because the selection of works and their numbers was remarkable, especially considering the subject of the exhibition. More over, once back to my office, I did have the chance to read – comfortably laying on the floor – the exhibition guide available online and I think that there are interesting points there, especially about the role that the French Revolution played in the “delivery” of women. It is something that I was already studying and I will definitively investigate further in the next months.

Overall it is an exhibition that I do recommend if you are interested not just in women artists but also in late 18th century art, in portraits and in discovering a part of art history that has often been neglected.

Femmes Peintres, 1780-1830. Naissance d’un combat has been extended to July 25th but if you cannot make it to Paris you can visit it online following this link OR, you can ask me to give you a virtual talk about women in art (and culture) in late 18th century France!

A last, final consideration: I always paid attention to my guests suffering from back pain. Now that I have a whole now level of understanding, I promise that I will not keep you standing longer that what’s strictly necessary.

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