Weisberg Gabriel P., « La réception de Louise Breslau, Rosa Bonheur et Amélie Beaury-Saurel à Paris : La différence sexuelle au cœur du discours » in Catherine Lepdor (ed.), Louise Breslau, de l’impressionnisme aux années folles, exh. cat,. Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, Lausanne [October 2001 – January 2002], Skira/Seuil, 2001, p. 99-115→
Becker Jane R. et Weisberg Gabriel P. (ed.), Overcoming all obstacles: the women of the Académie Julian, cat.exp., New York, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown [October 1999 – January 2000], Dahesh Museum [January – May 2000], Dixon Gallery, Memphis [July – September 2000], New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1999→
Paul de Katow, « Peintres et sculpteurs – Beaury Jaurel [sic] », Gil Blas, November, 3rd, 1886, p. 3
French painter, pastellist and illustrator.
Amélie Beaury-Saurel was born in Spain to French parents, Camille Georges Saurel and Marie Catherine Saurel, general inspector of prisons in the Seine department. According to the L’Intransigeant journalist Marie Laparcerie, who wrote an article about her in 1906, she started copying the works of the masters at the Louvre when she was only ten years old, under her mother’s supervision. When she had finished her copy of Christ on the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), commissioned by the Seine department for the Church of Issy in 1873, Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury (1797-1890) noticed and admired her use of colours and advised her to take drawing lessons at the Académie Julian. Some sources say she was twelve at the time, others fifteen. In retrospect, we now know that she started attending lessons at the women’s atelier around 1875, at the age of twenty-five.
A. Beaury-Saurel’s first teacher was Pauline Coeffier (1814-1900), a portraitist specialised in oil painting and pastels. She then went on to study at the academy under Tony Robert-Fleury (1837-1911), William Bouguereau (1825-1905), Jules Lefebvre (1836-1911), Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902), Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921) and Pierre Auguste Cot (1837-1883).
She started exhibiting at the Salon as early as 1873 and received several awards: a third-class medal in 1885, a second-class medal in 1887, and first-class medal in 1889. She was also awarded a gold medal at the Barcelona World’s Fair in 1888, and a bronze medal at the Paris World’s Fairs in 1889 and 1900. As from 1886 she participated several times in the graphic arts exhibition Blanc et Noir, where she received the prize of honour in 1892 from the French president. She created illustrations for La Revue illustrée (Portrait de Mlle Weber, 1886) and L’Art et la Mode (Une jeune doctoresse [Young woman doctor], 1893), among others. She took part in the exhibition of the Société des Amis des arts du Département de Seine-et-Oise in Versailles and won the Salon’s first prize (1886), as well as in the Salon de l’Union des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs (1888, 1889, 1890), the Women’s International Art Club Salon at the Grafton Galleries, London (1902), and exhibitions in Brussels, Liverpool and Antananarivo.
Throughout her career A. Beaury-Saurel made portraits of several major figures. In 1880 she painted a portrait of the President of the Senate Léon Say and, in 1889, of Cécile Carnot, the wife of the French president. In 1893 she was commissioned a portrait of the feminist journalist Séverine. Her portraits of Alexis Ballot-Beaupré, commissioner for the retrial of Alfred Dreyfus at the Court of Cassation, and of the writer Mrs Daniel Lesueur, were exhibited at the 1899 Salon. She also painted Jean-Paul Laurens (1919), Georges Clemenceau, Cardinal Amette and Maurice Barrès (1920), Marshal Foch (1921) and Léonce Bénédite (1923). She exhibited two self-portraits as an artist at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1887 and 1889.
While her main speciality was portraiture, she also took an interest in many other subjects, particularly relating to women and women’s rights. In 1891 she painted an allegory of work personified by an artist. In 1893 the newspaper La Joie de la maison used the piece as an illustration for an article in favour of granting women access to fine arts schools, a subject that was being debated in parliament at the time. In 1892 she exhibited Une doctoresse [Woman doctor]; in 1904, Nos Filles [Our daughters] showed a glorified image of a female cyclist; and in 1914, Nos éclaireuses [Our pathfinders] was presented as a “portrait of some of the women who contributed to feminism in action” (La Liberté, 6 May 1914).
Critics often noted the boldness and virility of her works – misogynistic compliments that only highlighted her talent by equating her with men. Albert Wolff wrote in Le Figaro on 30 April 1887: “Mrs Beaury-Saurel paints like a man with the delicateness of a woman.” Her works were greatly admired and garnered a great deal of attention, as demonstrated by the many articles written about them.
A. Beaury-Saurel served as “massière” (head student delegate) of the Atelier des Panoramas at the Académie Julian in the 1880s. She took care of the studio’s daily administration, chose the model who would pose for the students, and gave them advice. In 1883 she was the first woman to win the academy’s annual painting and drawing contest, with a life-size portrait of a woman. She married Rodolphe Julian on 9 January 1895 and after his death in 1907, she became director of the academy. As a member of the Société des Artistes Français, she supported the admission of painters Laure Boucher-Léoménil (1859-1930) in 1912 and Marthe Debes (1893-1967) in 1914, and of sculptor Marguerite Babin (dates unknown) in 1920.
In 1923 she was awarded the Legion of Honour for her influence in the French arts through the exhibition of her works and the education of young artists at the Académie Julian. She was described on this occasion as “one of the most well-known and likeable figures in the art world” (Le Gaulois, 12 August 1923).
A. Beaury-Saurel died in 1924 and was buried in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Most of her works present in French public collections were donations: Séverine donated her portrait to the Musée Carnavalet in 1927; Baron Alphonse de Rothschild donated works to museums in Toulouse, Draguignan, Nice and Nîmes; Mrs F. Schoen donated Les Deux Vaincues [Two defeated women] to the town of Mulhouse and Mrs Morel-Retz gave Portrait de femme [Portrait of a woman] to Dijon.
The location of several of her works remains unknown and many elements of her life are unclear. She achieved posterity thanks to texts dedicated to Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884), such as Albéric Cahuet’s Moussia et ses amis and Marie Bashkirtseff et Rodolphe Julian by André Corthis – her niece’s penname – in which the two women were presented as rivals. In 1932 an exhibition devoted to the women artists of the Académie Julian was organised at Galerie Jean Charpentier in Paris. Later, in 1999, the exhibition Overcoming All Obstacles: The Women of the Académie Julian in New York played a major part in the rediscovery of the careers of these women.
Publication made in partnership with musée d’Orsay.
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Portrait de femme, municipal museum, La Roche-sur-Yon, © musée de La Roche-sur-Yon
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Autoportrait, Revue universelle illustrée, 1889, p. 97, Bibliothèque nationale de France
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Portrait de Madame Caroline Cahen, illustrated catalog of the Salon, 1890, p. 170
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Travail, illustrated catalog of the Salon, 1891, p. 141, bibliothèque nationale de France
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Séverine (Caroline Rémy, épouse Guebhard, 1855-1929, dite), journaliste socialiste, 1893, oil on canvas, 122.5 x 88 cm, musée Carnavalet, Paris Musées
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Après déjeuner, 1899, pastel, white chalk and charcoal on paper, 100 x 81 cm, musée des Augustins, Toulouse
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Portrait de Mme Henri Rochefort, Les Modes, September 1906, p. 5, bibliothèque nationale de France
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921), peintre, 1919, oil on canvas, 116 x 89 cm, musée d’Orsay, © Photo: RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Portrait de Léonce Bénédite, 1923, oil on canvas, 117 x 90 cm, musée d’Orsay, © Photo: RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski