Dallas Show Exhibits Female Artists Who Changed History

22 DECEMBER 2018–9 JUNE 2019 | Dallas
Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, Portrait of Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva, née Hitrovo, 1799
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It is not often that a major institution like the Dallas Museum of Art will dedicate an entire exhibition to historic female artists. In Women Artists in Europe from the Monarchy to Modernism, the masterpieces span from the late 18th century through the 20th century, which in turn provides museumgoers with a wealth of compositions and artistic styles to view, dependent on the artist’s respective time period.

Of notable interest, the female artists on view in Dallas are relatively unknown today in comparison to their male contemporaries. It is up to pioneering exhibitions, much like the admirable Women Artists in Europe from the Monarchy to Modernism, to shed light onto female masters who have been largely erased from the art historical canon, such as Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, the once highly celebrated portraitist of Marie Antoinette or Eva Gonzalès, the accomplished mentee of Édouard Manet.

Historically, female artists have faced colossal barriers throughout their professional careers. Between the 18th and 20th centuries, women rarely received entrance to training academies. Female artists were additionally instructed to discard the medium of oil paint, encouraged to paint with so-called lesser media, like watercolor and pencil.

Until the 1800s, women were barred from studying and sketching nude models, a significant component in learning to illustrate the human form. Despite previous complications, with the rise of modernism in the mid-19th century, female career artists felt less obligated to conform to societal constructs. Artists of all genders experimented with artistic forms, causing an influx of female artists across Europe.

Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bouquet of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase with Peaches and Grapes, 1776
Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bouquet of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase with Peaches and Grapes, 1776, oil on canvas. Dallas Museum of Art. © Dallas Museum of Art/Ira Schrank.

From the refined, unparalleled portraits created by Vigée Le Brun to the visceral illustrations of Käthe Kollwitz, viewers in Dallas witness both the stylistic progression of European art and the exceptional skill of triumphant women artists. Preview highlights above.

Dallas Show Exhibits Female Artists Who Changed History

  • Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Portrait of Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva, née Hitrovo, 1799
    In 1755, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun was born to Louis Vigée, a well-known portraitist. Vigée Le Brun gained recognition as a young artist for her delicate portraits that were widely admired by Parisian elites and nobles, including the queen consort Marie Antoinette. The artist became Marie Antoinette’s primary portraitist and was elected to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture as a result. Once the monarchy fell during the French Revolution, Vigée Le Brun fled France with her young daughter. She spent over a decade abroad producing portraits of neighboring nobles and royal families. Featured is a portrait of the Russian noblewoman Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva; Vigée Le Brun painted this piece during her time in exile, before eventually returning to France.

    Oil on canvas. Lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation.
  • Eva Gonzalès, Afternoon Tea, 1874
    The French artist Eva Gonzalès (Eva Carola Jeanne Emmanuela Antoinette Gonzalès), born in 1849, was raised in Paris. At the age of 16, Gonzalès trained under artist Charles Chaplin. Her quick formal advancements impressed modernist Édouard Manet who invited her to be his pupil. Throughout her artistic career, Gonzalès favored the style of realism, despite being a contemporary of the Impressionists. Here Gonzalès features a domestic servant within a private sphere, serving bread to a richly dressed child. The artist elevates the status of the woman, compositionally placing her on high ground, and exposing her face. Gonzalès passed away at the age of 34 during childbirth.

    Oil on canvas. Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.
  • Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bouquet of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase with Peaches and Grapes, 1776
    Anne Vallayer-Coster was born in 1744 to a family of artists in France. Her father was a goldsmith and her mother a painter of miniatures. Vallayer-Coster was one of the only female exhibitors at the Salon, an annual art exhibition sponsored by the French government. Her lively still lifes impressed her compatriots, as she was commonly considered to be the successor of the well-known master of still life, Jean-Baptists Siméon Chardin. Much like Vigée Le Brun, Marie Antoinette was a patron of Vallayer-Coster, and the artist was an elected member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.

    Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art. © Dallas Museum of Art/Ira Schrank.
  • Käthe Kollwitz, Death Seizing a Mother, 1934
    Käthe Kollwitz, born in 1867, lived in Königsberg, Prussia before moving to Berlin to attend an art school for women. The German artist’s oeuvre was highly influenced by her political upbringing, as her parents were Social democrats. The artist would consistently illustrate the working classes in Berlin. In 1914, at the end of World War I, Kollwitz’s youngest son was killed in battle. Afterwards, Kollwitz prolifically created etchings, drawings, and sculptures that portrayed her devastation and profound loss as a mother.

    Lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, purchased with grant from The Assemblage.
  • Rosa Bonheur, Lion's Head, 1880-1885
    Perhaps one of the better-known female artists in history, Rosa Bonheur was born in 1822 in France to a family of artists. Her father, Oscar-Raymond Bonheur was an accomplished landscape artist. At the age of six, her family relocated to Paris where, at the age of 12, her father began training her as an artist. Early on, Bonheur developed a penchant for painting animals, and her father would humor her by bringing domesticated animals to the studio. Bonheur’s agricultural and realist paintings featuring animals earned her popularity in England as well as Paris. She regularly exhibited at the Salon and received numerous awards throughout her life from the Empress Eugénie.

    Pencil heightened with white on paper. Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas C. Campbell.
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