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Foreign Artists in Paris in the Early 20th Century
In the school curriculum
06.11.2020 | Nina Meisel

Lois Mailou Jones, Les clochards, Montmartre, Paris, 1947, casein on wood, 53.3 x 90.2 cm, © Smithsonian American Art Museum

At the turn of the 20th century, the Paris of the Third Republic had not yet ceded its place as the world capital of art. Artists from across the world arrived in the city to study and to create in the heart of modern avant-garde circles. This interest in France was especially due to the various universal exhibitions organised in Paris, as well as the École des Beaux-Arts and the network of private academies that opened during the second half of the 19th century, such as the Académie Julian, the Académie Colarossi, the Académie Vitti and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. These were places that not only broke from pictorial tradition, where students learned from artists of the time, but also places that broke from societal norms: academies allowed women to access professional art education, even offering life drawing classes. The entrance examination for the Beaux-Arts, on the other hand, was not open to women until 1897. In these training spaces the integration of foreign artists initiated an enriching dialogue between French art and movements from all over the world.

These schools were highly social places, with foreign artists taking part during their Parisian sojourns, making the richness of these institutions in which women artists actively participated: Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) and Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973) frequented the Rue du Dragon where the Académie Julian was located, while Hanna Hirsch-Pauli (1864-1940) and Ellen Thesleff (1869-1954) preferred Colarossi’s teaching. E. Thesleff nourished herself on the French Impressionist and Expressionist traditions, while after her studies Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) rejected it, preferring the German legacy. Some women entered these coveted places thanks to scholarships, which in the early 1880s enabled the Finns Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) and Elin Danielson-Gambogi (1861-1919), followed in 1913 by the Swedish Siri Derkert (1888-1973), to attend classes at schools in the Montparnasse district. In the 1930s Augusta Savage (1892-1962) studied at La Grande Chaumière thanks to financial aid obtained after a struggle with the admissions committee, which made her the first African American to benefit from this type of support. After her, Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998) also studied in Paris.

The presence of foreign artists in the French capital was striking. Thus in 1908 the New Zealander Frances Hodgkins (1869-1947) became the first woman to teach at the Académie Colarossi and Fang Junbi (Fan Tchun-pi, 1898-1986) was the first Chinese woman to study at the Beaux-Arts and in 1924 she became the first woman to exhibit at the annual Salon of French Artists. They also invited themselves into the cultural life of the city and into artists’ studios. For example Russian sculptor Anna Golubkina (1864-1927) studied in the studio of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and English painter Gwen John (1876-1939) posed there to earn her living. Their presence marked the sculptor’s production. Artists were also involved in contemporary movements, such as Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938) who worked alongside the Nabis group. Circles also formed around nationalities. Irina Codreanu (1896-1985) socialised with Romanian artists and wrote in the avant-garde publications circulating amongst the group. Marie Vassilieff (1884-1957), who came to Paris on a scholarship, founded the Académie Russe (renamed the Académie Vassilieff) of which she was the director, to welcome her compatriots.

The women artists who worked in Paris around 1900 have been celebrated in exhibitions such as Overcoming All Obstacles: The Women of the Académie Julian that took place at the Dahesh Museum in New York in 1999-2000, as well as the travelling exhibition Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900, that first opened at the Denver Art Museum in 2018. Their history has also been the subject of several in-depth studies, such as Sisters of the Brush: Women’s Artistic Culture in Late Nineteenth-Century Paris published in 1994, in which Tamar Garb revisits the lives of these artists, their relationships and their contribution to the history of art.

Explore the artists
1867 — Russia | 1945 — Germany
Käthe Kollwitz - AWARE

Käthe Kollwitz

1862 — 1940 | Sweden
Hanna Hirsch-Pauli - AWARE

Hanna Hirsch-Pauli

1869 — 1954 | Finland
Ellen Thesleff - AWARE

Ellen Thesleff

1861 — Finland | 1919 — Italy
Elin Danielson-Gambogi - AWARE

Elin Danielson-Gambogi

1888 — 1973 | Sweden
Siri Derkert - AWARE

Siri Derkert

1892 — 1962 | United States
Augusta Savage - AWARE

Augusta Savage

1905 — 1998 | United States
Lois Mailou Jones - AWARE

Lois Mailou Jones

1862 — 1946 | Finland
Helene Schjerfbeck - AWARE

Helene Schjerfbeck

1869 — New Zealand | 1947 — United Kingdom
Frances Hodgkins - AWARE

Frances Hodgkins

1898 — China | 1986 — Switzerland
Fang Junbi (Fan Tchun-pi) - AWARE

Fang Junbi (Fan Tchun-pi)

1864 — 1927 | Russia
Anna Goloubkina - AWARE

Anna Goloubkina

1876 — United Kingdom | 1939 — France
Gwen John - AWARE

Gwen John

1860 — Russia | 1938 — Switzerland
Marianne von Werefkin - AWARE

Marianne von Werefkin

1884 — Russia | 1957 — France
Marie Vassilieff - AWARE

Marie Vassilieff

1876 — Poland | 1967 — France
Mela Muter - AWARE

Mela Muter

1882 — Ireland | 1978 — United Kingdom
Mary Swanzy - AWARE

Mary Swanzy

1887 — 1956 | United Kingdom
Nina Hamnett - AWARE

Nina Hamnett

1886 — 1973 | Brazil
Tarsila do Amaral - AWARE

Tarsila do Amaral

1896 — Romania | 1985 — France
Irina Codreanu (Irène Codreano) - AWARE

Irina Codreanu (Irène Codreano)

1856 — Germany | 1927 — France
Louise Breslau - AWARE

Louise Breslau

1844 — 1933 | United-Kingdom
Annie Louisa Swynnerton - AWARE

Annie Louisa Swynnerton

1856 — 1942 | United States
Anna Elizabeth Klumpke - AWARE

Anna Elizabeth Klumpke

1836 — Switzerland | 1879 — Italy
Marcello (Adèle d’Affry, duchesse de Castiglione Colonna, dite) - AWARE

Marcello (Adèle d’Affry, duchesse de Castiglione Colonna, dite)

1844 — United States | 1926 — France
Mary Cassatt - AWARE

Mary Cassatt

1855 — Austria | 1927 — United-Kingdom
Marianne Stokes (née Maria Léopoldine Preindlsberger) - AWARE

Marianne Stokes (née Maria Léopoldine Preindlsberger)

1878 — 1954 | Germany
Clara Rilke-Westhoff - AWARE

Clara Rilke-Westhoff

1902 — 1988 | Argentina
Raquel Forner - AWARE

Raquel Forner

1900 — Palestine | 1988 — Israel
Sionah Tagger - AWARE

Sionah Tagger

1876 — 1918 | Spain
Lluïsa Vidal i Puig - AWARE

Lluïsa Vidal i Puig

1910 — 1999 | Israel
Sima Slonim - AWARE

Sima Slonim

1885 — Ukraine | 1979 — France
Sonia Delaunay - AWARE

Sonia Delaunay

1854 — Poland (now Ukraine) | 1893 — Poland
Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz - AWARE

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz

1905 — Turkey | 1938 — France
Hale Asaf - AWARE

Hale Asaf

1889 — 1943 | Norway
Ragnhild Keyser - AWARE

Ragnhild Keyser

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