Opening next Friday, February 24, Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and Other French National Collections features 77 paintings, prints, and sculptural works from 1750 to 1850—many of which have never been seen outside of France. In keeping with NMWA’s mission to rediscover and celebrate women artists of the past and demonstrate their continued relevance, the museum’s curators spent months scouring the collections of dozens of French museums and libraries to cull rarely-seen works by women artists. Royalists to Romantics showcases these exceptional works and reveals how the tumultuous period—which saw the flowering of the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the terrors of the French revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon, and the restoration of the monarchy—affected the lives and careers of women artists. The exhibition will be on view through July 29, 2012.
“Royalists to Romantics is the first exhibition to focus on women artists of this time period in France and demonstrate how they navigated a highly gendered world that presented different opportunities for education and patronage than for their male counterparts,” said NMWA Chief Curator Dr. Jordana Pomeroy. “The exhibition and catalogue for Royalists to Romantics will help to banish the obscurity that has veiled the legacy of many 18th-century French women artists.”
Featuring 35 artists, including Marguerite Gérard, Antoine Cecile Haudebourt-Lescot, Adélaïde Labille-Guillard, Sophie Rude, Anne Vallayer-Coster, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, the exhibition explores the political and social dynamics that shaped their world and influenced their work. Some of these artists flourished with support of such aristocratic patrons as Marie Antoinette, who not only appointed her favorite female artists Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun and Anne Vallayer-Coster to court, but advocated their acceptance into the Académie Royale de peinture et de sculpture—an official seal of approval that could establish an artist’s career. The political upheavals of the French Revolution and the following decades brought a new set of challenges for women artists.
“In celebration of the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ 25th anniversary, we are delighted to present Royalists to Romantics, an exhibition dedicated to a group of extraordinary 18th-century women artists that inspired our founder, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay,” said NMWA Alice West Director, Dr. Susan Fisher Sterling. “Like other important historical surveys NMWA has organized, including An Imperial Collection: Women Artists from the State Hermitage Museum and Italian Women Artists: From Renaissance to Baroque, bringing this great art to the U.S. from the Louvre, Versailles and other French national collections demonstrates our continued commitment to new scholarship about exceptional women artists over the centuries.”
NMWA members are invited to a special Member Preview Day, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. on Thursday, February 23, 2012, featuring:
- A noon lecture by New School Professor Laura Auricchio: “Royalists to Revolutionaries: Women Artists in the French Revolution”
- Staff-led gallery tours throughout the day
- An opportunity to see NMWA’s artist-in-residence and womenswear designer Celia Reyer begin work on the Brunswick traveling coat, inspired by and created through historically accurate production processes, that will bring to life the fashions in the portraiture on view.
For information about the day, or about becoming a NMWA member, visit www.nmwa.org or call toll-free 866-875-4627.
The 135-page, fully-illustrated exhibition catalogue has been published by Scala Publishers, with essays by Pomeroy and other noted scholars in the field. (To purchase the catalogue, call the Museum Shop toll-free at 877-226-5294. $45/Member $40.50; Item #3500.)
Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and Other French National Collections has been organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., with logistical support from sVo Art, Versailles.
The exhibition is made possible by the Annenberg Foundation, the Florence Gould Foundation, Hermès, Teresa L. and Joe R. Long, and Jacqueline Badger Mars, with additional funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, an Anonymous Donor, the Robert Lehman Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Further support is provided by Air France and Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square.