The Women of Impressionism: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and Other Pioneering Figures Who Shaped the Movement #ArtNews
The language surrounding Impressionism at the time was hypercritical, focusing on gender-based stereotypes that disregarded the artists’ talents. Art News is celebrating the women who pioneered this famous period of art!
In 19th-century France, women were largely unable to obtain a formal art education, as studying the nude form was considered scandalous. But the constraints placed on women did not end within the studio. Unmarried women were barred from leaving the home without a chaperone, and they were expected instead to tend the household or pass time with decorative arts in the company of other women. Female Impressionists—many of whom have been undervalued or outright ignored by the historical canon—exploited these confines, producing introspective works that dealt with their makers’ societal conditions. In 1894, critic Henri Focillon singled out three of them as the “Les Trois Grandes Dames,” or “The Three Great Ladies,” of the movement: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and Marie Bracquemond. The trio acted as peers and friends to the movement’s top members. Édouard Manet, for example, was a great admirer of Morisot’s audacious brushwork—so much so, in fact, that he reportedly displayed a small collection of her paintings in his bedroom.
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