Geneviève Granger

1877Tulle, France | 1967Paris, France
Geneviève Granger — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Geneviève Granger, Autoportrait, 1899, single-sided plate, melted bronze, 7.8 cm x 5.9 cm, © musée d’Orsay

French medallist, sculptor, bookplate etcher and ceramicist.

Geneviève Granger and her family left their native Corrèze for Paris after losing their home to fire. She began to show an interest in art at the age of ten, which her parents thought would be short-lived. They had her take a few private lessons, but seeing the talent she developed for drawing and modelling, her father, who had believed she would marry, realised there was nothing he could do to stop his daughter’s artistic ambitions. Some sources mistakenly made her a pupil of sculptors Jean Boutellier (1851-1916), Jules Mabille (1843-1897) and Antide Marie Péchiné (1855-1929), and of medallist Hubert Ponscarme (1827-1903) at the École des Beaux-Arts, when in fact women were not allowed there at the time. In reality G. Granger studied in the studios of sculptor André Massoulle (1851-1901) and medal engraver Henri Dubois (1859-1943). She made her debut at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1895 by sending a bust of her mother. The piece was the first of a dizzyingly long list of works she sent to its sculpture and medal engraving sections until 1958. Her loyalty to the Salon earned her an honourable mention in 1899 and a third-class medal in 1901.

G. Granger was a very active member of the art world who worked in many different areas. She served as secretary for the Société des Artistes Français in 1899 and was one of the founding members of the Salon d’Automne in 1903. She also contributed to the valorisation of women artists. In 1902 she started giving lessons in drawing, painting, sculpture and above all, medal engraving, among other disciplines, in her studio at 37, then 22, Rue Denfert-Rochereau in Paris, where she was a teacher to Mabel Mason (dates unknown) and Eleanor-Antoinette Sneden (1876- unknown), of whom she made portraits, as well as Ernesta Robert-Mérignac (1858-1933). She founded two feminist organisations: Les Quelques, a group of women artists who held exhibitions in Paris – that of 1908 included her work; and Les Unes Internationales, of which she was vice-president in 1906 and chair in 1908. In addition to this, she took part in the Société des Femmes Artistes’ fifteenth show, held in 1907 at Galerie Georges Petit. In 1910 a retrospective of her work was organised by the Lyceum, another women’s club in Paris. On this occasion she first showed a series of studies made during a stay in Volendam, the Netherlands, where she sketched the locals of the fishing town, giving the set of plates a picturesque atmosphere. In 1913 she presented another famous series at Galerie Reitlinger in Paris. The success of her Silhouettes parisiennes was such that the most fashionable celebrities of the time sought to reproduce chicness à la “Donilo” – a pseudonym G. Granger sometimes used. Along with these Parisian triumphs, she also took part in World’s Fairs: London in 1903; Saint-Louis in 1904; Basel in 1906; Stuttgart in 1907; Brussels and New York in 1910; Rome in 1911; Ghent in 1913; Leipzig in 1914, etc. She never ceased to work throughout World War I, so much so that in 1921 Galerie Georges Petit was able to hold an exhibition of entirely new works.

Aged more than forty G. Granger had nothing more to prove but still continued to earn distinctions: an honorary diploma at the International Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925, the Legion of Honour in 1932 and a silver medal at the 1937 World’s Fair. The 1920s and 1930s also saw her work moving further away from medal etching and towards small decorative bronzework and ceramics. During this time she delivered over one hundred manufacturable models to companies such as Barbedienne (Salomé statuette, model dated 1914), Siot-Decauville (Meditation, ci. 1922) and Etling & Lehmann (porcelain decorative objects). She took up medal etching again in the late 1940s with a series of portraits of writers (Alphonse Daudet, 1947; Chateaubriand, 1948; José-Maria de Heredia, 1959) and marshals of the Great War (Foch, 1951-1952; Fayolle, 1952-1953) commissioned by the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint). Following her 1921 marriage to Pierre Chanlaine (born Pierre Wunstel, 1885-1969), a journalist, novelist and president of the Association des Écrivains Combattants, she became involved in efforts to revitalise the art of the bookplate, which her husband promoted in a magazine specially created for this purpose (L’Ex-libris. Revue internationale, 1930-1934).

After G. Granger’s death, P. Chanlaine was determined to promote his wife’s work and donated several of her original plaster casts to the Monnaie de Paris. Other unproduced works are kept at the Musée Labenche in Brive-la-Gaillarde. In June 1910 G. Granger generously gave them nine medals and plaster plates, half of which were a series of private portraits of her father, mother and herself, and the other half works produced in Volendam. The set of works kept at the Musée d’Orsay includes twenty or so medals, which feature a few decorative compositions, most notably Le Goûter [Tea Time], of which the Société de la Médaille Française published 147 copies in 1908.

Katia Schaal

Translated from French by Lucy Pons.

Publication made in partnership with musée d’Orsay.
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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