Her Paris features 37 women artists who created work in Paris between 1850–1900. The exhibition includes a section called Her Voices in which excerpts from letters and journals are used to allow visitors to hear from the artists themselves. Below are a few quotes from the exhibition that give you an idea about the challenges these women faced and their dedication to overcoming them:
"Why shouldn’t I be proud to be a woman? My father, that enthusiastic apostle of humanity, told me again and again that it was woman’s mission to improve the human race…To his doctrines I owe my great and glorious ambition for the sex to which I proudly belong, whose independence I’ll defend till my dying day. Besides, I’m convinced the future is ours."
"My whole life has been devoted to improving my work and keeping alive the Creator’s spark in my soul. Each of us has a spark, and we’ve all got to account for what we do with it."
"Do you think I benefit from what I see when, in order to go to the Louvre, I must wait for my carriage, my lady companion, or my family? This is one of the reasons why there have been no great women artists. . . . But if we were raised in the same manner as men, this inequality which I deplore would disappear, and what remains would be inherent in nature itself. Oh well, no matter what I say, we must cry out and make ourselves ridiculous (I will leave this to others) to obtain this equality in a hundred years. As for me, I will stick it to society by showing them a woman who has become something, despite all the disadvantages it heaped on her."
"There should be no sex in Art…I am pointing, I know, to a millennium, at least in the women’s view, if I predict an hour when the term ‘Women in Art’ will be as strange sounding a topic as ‘Men in Art’ would be now."
"I want these two men, [artists] Bouguereau and Fleury, to know me, and recognize that I can do something. It will count in the long run. And I am learning a great deal at the atelier and storing it up."
"I am American, definitely and frankly American."
"I am independent! I can live alone and I love my work. Degas sometimes became angry because he could not find any weaknesses in me, and sometimes we did not see each other for months at a time, until something I had painted brought us back together again."
"I don’t think there has ever been a man who treated a woman as an equal and that’s all I would have asked for—I know I am worth as much as they…but there is a kind of elevation that does not depend on fortune; it's an indefinable air that distinguishes us and seems to destine us for great things; it's the value that we give ourselves…especially to our spirit."
Learn more in Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism, on view at the Denver Art Museum October 22, 2017-January 14, 2018.
Image at top: Marie Bashkirtseff (Ukrainian, 1858-1884), In the Studio, 1881. Oil on canvas; 60-5/8 x 73-1/4 in. Dnipropetrovsk State Art Museum, Ukraine KH-4234. Photo: Dnipropetrovsk/ Bridgeman Images. Courtesy American Federation of Arts