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Published on 01.06.2023

Faire œuvre

The scientific committee


This publication is a follow-up to an international cross-curricular symposium held on 19 and 20 September 2019 at the Centre Pompidou and Musée d’Orsay in Paris, in partnership with AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions. Titled Faire œuvre. Artwork in the Making. Training and Professionalisation of Women Artists in the 19th and 20th Centuries, the symposium’s aim was to give an overview of current research on women’s access to educational facilities in France and abroad, whether these were studios, private academies or public schools.

Women were excluded from institutional art tuition throughout history. Only in the nineteenth century were they finally allowed to study drawing, painting and sculpture at the most reputable schools. This exclusion was not without consequences for many of these women’s professional careers, as it kept them away from networks and opportunities such as official acquisitions and commissions. Art historical studies of earlier periods have shown that women’s family circles were a determining factor in their access to artistic professions. The opening of studios and schools to women was initially limited. One example in France was the free drawing school, the École Gratuite de Dessin pour les Jeunes Personnes, which was founded in 1803 and was the only publicly funded art school available to women in Paris at the time. Following a lengthy public campaign in favour of equality, the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris finally opened its doors to women in 1897, officially marking their acceptance into the profession. However, women still experienced different treatment: they had to wait until 1903 to present their works for the Prix de Rome and were only able to attend one single-sex studio at the school.
The history of this protracted fight for equality, a result of individual and collective actions, falls within the larger scope of the struggle for the education of women in every domain. In the field of the arts, the many obstacles and pushback that women faced were perhaps even more significant because of the powerful divide that placed men on the side of creation and relegated women exclusively to procreation.

The contributions collected in this publication cross-reference biographical and familial data with social, economic and political perspectives on women’s status in society, in order to map out key points in this history, to retrace each individual artistic path and to identify collective educational dynamics. The study of the methods and nature of women’s education raises many questions: the impacts of single-sex and mixed classes; the issue of paid versus free tuition; the question of propriety through access to nude live models; and gender specificities in regards to each discipline – as in, for instance, applied arts being traditionally reserved for women, etc. Beyond their educational content, the research presented here reminds us of the decisiveness of artistic training at the start of an artist’s career through the friendships, professional networks, and exhibition and commission opportunities it fosters.

The book opens with the subject of women’s training in the applied arts. Renaud d’Enfert’s article provides an overview of the drawing schools that were accessible to young women in nineteenth-century France, underlining their moral and economic purpose. The social dimension of drawing tuition is embodied in the figure of educational art handbook writer Marie-Élisabeth Cavé, presented in the text by Luciana Lourenço Paes. Lucile Encrevé’s essay is an in-depth study of the place of women at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs from a historical standpoint.
The second chapter examines the subject of co-education in fine arts schools. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the success of private tuition stoked debates on the role of public education. Women being allowed to access the Beaux-Arts de Paris was the outcome of a relentless fight led by France’s Union of Women Painters and Sculptors and its allies – a protracted feminist struggle which Catherine Gonnard retraces in her essay. Underlining the role of male allies, Wendy Wiertz touches on the subject of men supporting equal opportunities at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels in the late nineteenth century. Georgina G. Gluzman’s text addresses the Argentinian context of the 1930s and 1940s through the example of the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, which differed from its the National Academy of Fine Arts thanks to its co-educational classes, which led it to become the training ground of choice for many women artists.
The contributions that follow offer a comparative study of situations in several European countries, focusing on social history and a spatial approach. From their places of birth to the cities in which they trained and worked, the diversity of the artists presented is a testament to the importance of transnational circulation. Paris had pride of place on this map of the world, with academies and private studios playing a trailblazing role. This was the case with Académie Vitti (active from 1889 to 1914) examined in Maria Antonietta Trasforini’s text, which was one of three Italian academies open to women in the French capital and whose uniqueness lay in the fact that it was run by the models themselves. Linda Hinners’s contribution retraces the cosmopolitan career paths of several Swedish women sculptors at the turn of the twentieth century, while Ewa Borowska examines the case of Polish artists who divided their time between Paris and Munich. The essay by Fanny Drugeon focuses on painter André Lhote’s atelier, which became an essential Parisian hub in the interwar years and was predominantly attended by women, including foreign artists.
The fourth chapter focuses on sisterhood, with case studies that underline the importance of solidarity in the sharing of knowledge between women. Educational facilities played a major part in their socialisation and emancipation and allowed them to stray from conventional expectations. In her essay, Heather Belnap retraces the history of the networks of American women artists who chose to train in Paris from the 1890s to the 1940s, before returning to the United States to pursue their careers and contribute to developing artistic infrastructures. Samantha Niederman’s article highlights the figure of Frances Hodgkins: the New Zealand painter was the first female teacher at Académie Colarossi and was known to use her educational methods to encourage each of her students’ individual qualities. Ana Bordenave examines the Super 8 workshops developed by the Greek artist duo Klonaris/Thomadaki in the 1980s, which doubled as spaces for feminist education and activism.
The final chapter explores individual cases and analyses the educational choices and career paths of several artists. Katherine Manthorne details how landscape painter Eliza Pratt Greatorex’s trips to France played a crucial part in her training and in the evolution of her style. Yelin Zhao retraces the artistic life of Victorine Meurent, her aspirations and the obstacles she faced during her career as both a model and artist. Finally, Émilie Bouvard delves into the singular case of Louise Bourgeois, who studied at several Parisian academies before moving to New York in 1938. In addition to these historical perspectives, in a conversation with Scarlett Reliquet, the artist Béatrice Casadesus revisits her career, from her initial vocation to her first steps as an artist and teacher.

The richness of these presentations, and the inspiring debates they prompted during the two days of the symposium, attest to the importance of these research topics, which provide us with invaluable information on the life stories of these artists, whether well known or forgotten. We hope that the symposium and this book will open up new possibilities for work and collaborations that will encourage a critical rethinking of established canons and a re-evaluation of the place of women artists in art history.

The scientific committee



This publication is a follow-up to the international cross-curricular symposium Faire œuvre. Artwork in the Making. Training and Professionalisation of Women Artists in the 19th and 20th Centuries held on 19 and 20 September 2019 at the Centre Pompidou and Musée d’Orsay in Paris, in partnership with AWARE.

Research committee
Hanna Alkema,
Sabine Cazenave,
Ariane Coulondre,
Alexia Creusen,
Sophie Eloy,
Nathalie Ernoult,
Thomas Galifot,
Leïla Jarbouai,
Camille Morineau,
Nicole Myers,
Sylvie Patry,
Scarlett Reliquet,
Anne Rivière,
Séverine Sofio,
Matylda Taszycka,
Fanny Verdier,
Julie Verlaine
et Charlotte Foucher Zarmanian

Publishing direction
Sibylle Vabre
avec Matylda Taszycka (AWARE)

Editorial coordination
Sibylle Vabre

Sandra Pizzo
et Bronwyn Mahoney

Design and layout
Lisa Sturacci
avec Pia Philippe

Lucy Pons

Consuelo Crulci-Perrois
avec le soutien de Clarisse Deubel (Centre Pompidou)

AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions

This publication benefited from the support of Fonds de dotation Elysées Monceau.
This publication benefited from help from the ANR under the Investissement d’avenir program (ANR-17-EURE-0008).
This publication benefited from the support of the musée d’Orsay.
This publication benefited from the support of the Centre Pompidou.

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