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Equal Opportunities for Women. Supporting Aspiring Female Artists at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels in the Late 19th Century

Wendy Wiertz


From the late nineteenth century onwards, Belgian fine arts academies gradually began opening their doors to female students. Gaining access to these male bastions was an important step for aspiring women artists to attain equal educational and professional opportunities. This fact has been rightly celebrated as a victory of female endurance, but they also received support by male allies.

In my paper I focus on one such ally, exploring the advocacy of Joseph Stallaert (1825-1903) for an official nude model painting class for women at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels during his tenure as director of between 1895 and 1898. To achieve this, Stallaert needed approval from the local city council, and the correspondence between himself and the council demonstrates his pragmatic approach and unflagging support for his female students. The letters also show his views on women’s education and their place in society at the turn of the century.


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