Learn more about the women behind the art of Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism, which is on view at the Denver Art Museum through January 14, 2018.
1. First woman to win France's highest honor: In 1865, Rosa Bonheur became the first woman to be awarded the coveted Légion d’Honneur, the highest decoration in France. It took 30 years for another woman to be recognized; in 1894 Virginie Demont-Breton became the second woman to ever receive the distinction.
2. Fighting for rights: Mary Cassatt supported women’s suffrage in America. In 1915 she showed 18 works in an exhibition supporting the movement. The exhibition brought Mary in conflict with her sister-in-law who was anti-suffrage and who boycotted the exhibition along with much of Philadelphia's high society. Mary responded by selling her work that would have otherwise passed on to that side of the family.
3. Women were excluded from certain schools: In 1881, the Union des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs (Union of Women Painters and Sculptors) was created to provide more opportunity for female artists to study in France, as they were not allowed to attend the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) until 1897.
4. Why the Louvre was a go-to spot: Although custom prohibited most women artists from socializing at the cafés frequented by their male counterparts, they could find a certain degree of freedom at the Louvre, which offered a copyist program that encouraged their participation. One such example of the work done at the Louvre is Helene Schjerfbeck’s study of a Sandro Botticelli fresco, which you can view in the exhibition.
5. Predicting a 'revolution': Joseph Guichard, instructor of the Morisot sisters Berthe and Edma, warned the girls’ mother that “given your daughters’ natural gifts, it will not be petty drawing room talents that my instruction will achieve; they will become painters. Are you fully aware of what that means? It will be revolutionary.”
6. How to make war come alive on canvas: Lady Elizabeth Butler began painting wartime scenes after visiting Paris and viewing the work of famed military painter Edouard Detaille. To achieve remarkable historical accuracy in her paintings, such as Balaclava from 1876, she acquired soldiers’ equipment and uniforms, read firsthand accounts of war, and interviewed veterans.
7. Making a home in Taos: Mary Shepard Greene married Ernest Blumenschein, a founder of the Taos Society of Artists, whose work is well represented in the DAM's western American art collection. After spending time in Paris and New York, they both moved permanently to Taos in 1919.
8. 'The one true impressionist': Berthe Morisot’s uninhibited and sketch-like brushwork prompted critics of the time to term her “the one true impressionist.”
9. The influence of a master: For 10 years, Lilla Cabot Perry and her husband summered in Giverny in the house adjacent to Monet’s. Although Monet did not formally accept students, he and Perry developed a relationship characterized by mutual respect, and his influence can be seen in many of her paintings.
10. Animal lover and painter: Rosa Bonheur owned a menagerie of animals, including a lioness named Fathma. One of her most famous animal paintings, Ploughing in Nivernais, is on view in Her Paris.
Images: Anna Ancher, no date, photo by Anna Knudstrup. The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library, The Royal Library. Berthe Morisot, photo by Charles Reutlinger. Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, France / Bridgeman Images. Cecilia Beaux painting, about 1919, unknown photographer. Cecilia Beaux papers, 1863-1968. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.