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Women Artists Shows· Salons· Societies 1870s-1970s

The Exhibitions of the Femmes Artistes Modernes (FAM), Paris, 1931-38

Paula J. Birnbaum


The Société des Femmes Artistes Modernes (FAM) opened up a productive space for women artists who were active in Paris during the 1930s through annual multigenerational exhibitions and international collaborations. I argue that FAM embodied a paradox: on the one hand, it supported artists wishing to question stereotypes of gender, race, class, and nation; on the other, its institutional structure and leadership did not challenge patriarchal assumptions about women’s subordinate role in society. The paper explores this tension by comparing the work and critical reception of several artists in the group who represented the theme of motherhood.


Paula J. Birnbaum is a professor at the University of San Francisco and author of Women Artists in Interwar France: Framing Femininities (Ashgate/Routledge, 2011). Her scholarship focuses on modern and contemporary art in relationship to gender and sexuality, as well as institutional and social politics. She is presently completing a biography of the sculptor, Chana Orloff, forthcoming with Brandeis University Press.

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