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Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism

Rachelle Reichley

Paris in the 1860’s was a hostile place for women artists. During the age of Impressionism, countless women artists were under-credited and their work forgotten by the competitive eyes of a male dominated society. It is in the new exhibit curated by the Denver Art Museum entitled Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism that the masterpieces of these seemingly forgotten women are showcased and their intricate stories are brought to light.
Throughout the exhibit the curators encompassed all parts of the life of a woman artist from segregated schooling to family and the 89 total pieces of artwork are melded together to create a web of different tales of even more different women who faced adversity with a burning passion for art.
During the era, women were expected to be the mothers and the wives: tending to the households and being seen but not heard. It was during this time of women’s suppression that these artists rose against society and succeeded at something that was so farfetched for women of the time. Yet along the hard road to success there were many obstacles keeping women from showcasing their paintings. Women were not allowed to attend art colleges and there were few academies willing to teach women. Additionally, in order for a woman’s art to be presented to the world she must have a man in her life to guide her work.
As result of societal expectation, many of the paintings presented in this exhibit highlight introspective topics, such as reading, since women were expected to stay inside and be homemakers. “There was beauty elsewhere and the women were able to find it internally,” said Angelica Daneo, one of the curators of the exhibit.
Moreover, there are few paintings of landscapes by these female artists as a result of the inappropriateness that tromping in the wild presented. Lastly, while men artists were allowed the freedom of rowdiness, women were expected to stay modest at all times and were not allowed the same free expression as men. Further evidence of the tyranny women faced is the fact that women were not allowed to gallivant around the streets of Paris alone and this limited their worldview, liberation, and experience.
But even in the face of inequality, these women prevailed.
It is from these oppressive conditions that these 37 women rose against the social, cultural, and artistic bonds placed upon them and created masterpieces. Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism is an inspiring and eye-opening exhibit and a timely reminder of the magnificence of art and the beautiful expression of silenced voices.