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Were Women Trained to become Artists or “Skilled Workers”? Public Tuition and Drawing Schools for Women and Girls in France in the 19th century

Renaud d'Enfert


The education of women and girls in the field of the arts in nineteenth-century France was characterised by a move to set up drawing lessons and open schools specifically dedicated to them. While the École Gratuite de Dessin pour les Jeunes Personnes, founded in Paris in 1803, may seem emblematic of this trend, it must not overshadow similar, although less renowned, initiatives that were undertaken across the country. The purpose of this article is to highlight the entirety of this movement prior to 1880 by examining both the institutional conditions in which this specific program directed at women evolved and the nature and purpose of the tuition they received, in regard to the target demographic and intended prospects. In this instance, the aim was less to train the students to become artists than to teach them to become “skilled workers”.


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