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National Museum of Women in Arts celebrates 25th anniversary with new exhibition
Rose Adélaïde Ducreux, Portrait of the Artist, ca. 1799. Oil on canvas, 69⅜ × 50⅞ in. Musée des beaux-arts, Rouen.
WASHINGTON, DC.- In keeping with its mission to rediscover and celebrate women artists of the past and demonstrate their continued relevance, the National Museum of Women in Arts presents Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and Other French National Collections. The exhibition features 77 paintings, prints, and sculptural works from 1750 to 1850—many of which have never been seen outside of France. To develop the exhibition, NMWA 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 that 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.

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. The political upheavals of the French Revolution and the following decades brought a new set of challenges for women artists. Royalists to Romantics explores the complex ways that women negotiated their cultural positions and marketed their reputations in France’s shifting social, political and artistic environment.

“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 will illuminate a burgeoning area of art history that describes a rich, active, and compelling art world as complex and layered as our art world today.”

“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 Museum 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.”

Among the themes explored in the exhibition are: • How women, largely banned from formal academic training and exhibiting venues, relied on personal • connections and informal networks of patronage, support, and training; • The ways in which women adapted as the system of patronage evaporated during the revolution and they were forced to work in an increasingly competitive and public marketplace; • The power structure that made the mere act of women being artists scandalous, often subjecting them to accusations of sexual immorality and professional impropriety.





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