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The Status of Women at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs: writing a new narrative

Lucile Encrevé


In this text the author describes and analyses the status of women (students, teachers, directors) at the French national school of decorative arts school, École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (EnsAD) from the institution’s origins to its situation at the end of the twentieth century. She has based her research on documents kept in the French national archives and at the EnsAD to gain a better understanding of the evolution of women’s working conditions until after the school became co-educational in 1949, starting with the École Gratuite de Dessin pour les Jeunes Personnes, which was opened in Paris in 1803 by the painter Marie Frère de Montizon (and subsequently directed by her daughters, followed by Rosa Bonheur and Nelly Marandon de Montyel), later to become the women’s section of the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in 1890. This analysis provides us with precise information about a portion of the school’s history that has long been ignored and underestimated, and helps us understand its specificities (particularly its layout) and their links to the school’s identity (the relationship between art and the decorative arts, drawing), as well as the struggles and successes of women on their path to equality – a battle that has yet to be won.


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