Chavanne Blandine & Gaudichon Bruno (eds.),Odette Pauvert : (1903-1966) ; Première femme Grand Prix de Rome de Peinture, exh. cat., Poitiers, Musée Sainte-Croix, (18 June – 15 September 1986), Poitiers, Musée Sainte Croix, 1986
Odette Pauvert : (1903-1966) ; Première femme Grand Prix de Rome de Peinture, Poitiers, Musée Sainte-Croix, 18 June – 15 September 1986
Born to a family of artists – her parents were both miniaturists – Odette Pauvert intended to become a drawing teacher, like her father, joining the Paris School of Fine Arts in 1922, so as to benefit from his advice and professional network. She was awarded the silver medal at the Salon des artistes français in 1923 and won the bronze medal the following year. She also won several prizes at her school: in 1925, by unanimous decision minus two votes – those of Forain and Besnard, two particularly misogynistic members of the jury who believed a woman had no right to claim such an award – she was the first woman painter to receive the Grand Prix de Rome for painting, for her Légende de Saint Ronan. This exemplifies how hard it was for women to enter artistic spheres, especially that of academic art. The Paris School of Fine Arts only opened its doors to women in 1897; even then, they did not have access to its workshops until 1900 and were only allowed to compete in the Prix de Rome from 1903.
The first woman to receive this prize was the sculptor Lucienne Heuvelmans (1881-1944) in 1911. When O. Pauvert arrived at the Villa Medici in 1925, she was the only female resident. Upon returning to France in 1929, she worked at her parents’ studio. In 1932, she was commissioned to paint a fresco for the Église du Saint-Esprit, by its architect, Paul Tournon. The following year, she painted a decoration, L’Amour maternel (Motherly Love), for the boy’s school of the rue Jomard in Paris. In 1935, after residing at the Casa de Velázquez in Madrid thanks to a scholarship from the Academy of Fine Arts, she exhibited in the Renaissance Gallery. The following year, she decorated a school dormitory in Sèvres and two pavilions for the 1937 World’s Fair. She married André Tissier, an amateur painter, with whom she had three children. A lack of public commissions – the State and Church had become more partial to modernism – steered the artist toward miniature and easel painting. A major retrospective of her work at the Musée de Poitiers in 1986 finally provided a new outlook on her career, in light of the history of women artists.
Odette Pauvert, La légende de Saint-Ronan, 1925, oil on canvas, © Photo: Beaux-Arts de Paris, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais, image Beaux-arts de Paris
Odette Pauvert, La mère et l’enfant, 1933, oil on canvas, decoration of the vestibule of the primary school of the street Jomard, XIX district of Paris