When people think of French Artist one of the first thoughts is of the beautiful natural landscapes of Monet or the humanistic style of Manet. These two amazing artists, as well as so many others, paved the way for French artists to make their mark on the world through the beauty of their paintings and most notably through the Impressionistic Style. The Impressionism movement was popular at the end of the 19th century and focused on small thin brush stroke that meant to create a a juxtaposition between objects and the light touching them. This movement used everyday people, objects, events, and relationships and casted them in a natural light to tell a message to the viewer of the paintings.
Female Impressionists: Berthe, Cassatt, and Gonzalès
The Impressionism movement was huge for women. Because of past social mores, Women did not have the same access to artistic education that men did. One of the reasons that they could not create a name for themselves before the Impressionism movement was because artists needed to study anatomy to create beautiful paintings of the human form. These nude figure drawing classes were unheard of for women to attend which held them back from realizing the true extent of their talent. With the Impressionism movement, rather than the Neoclassical or Romanticism movement, the subject of the painting was no longer the human form but rather of human interaction with their natural landscapes. The impressionism movement was all about telling a modern story through art. Women were able to branch out and finally join the canon because they were able to put their own spin on art and learn from famous painters without worrying as much about the social stigma.
That is not to say that in the time of Impressionism there were no social rules women of class had to follow. Unmarried Women were expected to always be accompanied by a chaperone when leaving the house, and in the home were expected to be practicing decorative arts like embroidery, drawing, or painting always in the presence of other women. Because it was expected of them, many women spent their time invested in the arts but it was still hard to branch into the movement without the help of other respected artists or their affluent families.
One female Impressionist artist, Mary Cassatt, was able to create a name for herself in the Impressionism movement. American born, her and her family moved from Pennsylvania to France in the late 1800s. There she continued practicing her craft and exceeded in exhibiting her work among other Impressionist artists with the help of a new friend, Edgar Degas. Degas is one of the more prevalent Impressionist painters, many of his paintings depicting women in movement. Mary Cassatt created many different intimate paintings of women from a woman’s perspective throughout her artistic career. Most of her more famous paintings depicted the relationship between mother and child that she was able to observe between her sisters and their children. Never having married herself, Mary Cassatt lived with family but created a very strong career for herself that supported her well. Her paintings made it into the Paris Salon many times and she is known as a great Impressionistic painter.
Here are three paintings that showcase Cassatt’s take on the Impressionistic style.
Another female Impressionism artist I am going to highlight is Eva Gonzalès. Eva Gonzalès started as a pupil of Édouard Manet. , and she learned a lot of her art style from him. Her style closely mirrored Manet’s Spanish period of art. She painted representations of everyday life, deeply marked with Manet’s guidance and influence. Her work may not be as innovative and bright as other artists like Berthe Morisot or Mary Cassatt’s pieces, but the neutral somber tone of her paintings set Gonzalès apart from others. Even towards the end of his career, when Manet drifted back to color, Gonzalès continued to retain her neutral color scheme, and this individualized her work from other prominent artists. Gonzalès showed the Impressionism movement through her own eyes and learned the craft through her close study with talented artists such as Édouard Manet. She died of childbirth at the height of her career before she could reach her true potential.
Here are two notable paintings Eva Gonzalès completed: Une loge aux Italiens (A Box at the Italian Theater), and Morning Awakening.
Berthe Morisot was another famous female artist. She, along with Cassatt and Marie Bracquemond, were a part of a group of three women named “Les Trois Grandes Dames” or “The Three Great Ladies” of the Impressionism movement by critic Henri Focillon. Berthe Morisot was immersed in the artistic community. She was privileged to attend formal schooling for art and was a part of the Paris Salon many times throughout the end of the 19th century. Morisot continued her craft professionally after her marriage to Eugène Manet, Édouard Manet’s brother. Berthe Morisot worked closely alongside her brother-in-law Édouard Manet but continued to incorporate her independent flair into her own art. She focused her paintings on working, sophisticated, and well-dressed Parisian women. They were at the forefront of Berthe Morisot’s work. Throughout her long career, she continued to work freely and independently while showcasing the best aspects of the Impressionistic art style in her unique way.
Here are some vastly different paintings she created throughout her long career as a notable female impressionistic artist. The first is In England , showcasing her husband Eugène. The next painting is The Cradle. Finally, Self Portrait of Morisot.