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Aspiration and Negotiation: Model-Artist Victorine Meurent in Her Time and in the History of Art

Yelin Zhao


Born into an artisan family, Victorine Meurent started her modelling career in late 1861 and is best known as Édouard Manet’s favourite model. From the mid 1870s Meurent aspired to become an artist, taking painting and drawing lessons in a private studio as well as at Académie Julian. Her decisions about where to study, exhibit and promote herself as an artist present us with a curious case, showing the struggles and negotiations that a woman from a modest background encountered between the 1870s and 1900s.

In this paper I scrutinise periods in Meurent’s life when she had access to art education and analyse her vocational decisions in order to evaluate the negotiations she made to fulfil her artistic aspirations. Examining the ways in which Meurent was documented by her contemporaries, I reveal the obstacles to studying art for women of limited means.


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