Posts Tagged 'Women’s History Month'

Breaking the Mold: Three Women Artists

A recent study surveying the permanent collections of 18 prominent art museums in the United States (including the DMA) found that out of over 10,000 artists, 87% are male. Although history has produced fewer female artists than male, women artists have always existed, and their work is currently available on the art market.

In an effort to fix the gender discrepancy in the DMA’s collection, we continue to collect work produced by innovative women artists from past to present. In 2017–2018, for example, the DMA’s European Art Department acquired three masterworks by some of the most well known—yet still under-served—women artists in the history of French art: Adélaïde Labille Guiard (1749–1803), Eva Gonzalès (1849–1883), and Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899). All three works can be seen in the DMA’s current exhibition Women Artists in Europe from the Monarchy to Modernism alongside other works by women artists from the DMA’s permanent collection, private collectors, and nearby museums.

The show is free and open to the public through June 9, 2019. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to these newest arrivals!

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Portrait of a Man, c. 1795, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 2017.18

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was one of four women artists accepted to the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in the latter half of the 18th century. Women were banned from training as students in the Royal Academy at the time, but were occasionally accepted as members (somewhat akin to modern-day professors) with limited privileges if they could demonstrate exceptional talent. After her acceptance as a portrait painter in 1783, Labille-Guiard exhibited consistently at the Academy’s Salon for the next nine years, received prestigious commissions, and was named the official painter of the “Mesdames de France” (King Louis XV’s daughters) in 1787.

During the French Revolution of 1789–99—a time when many members of the royal family fled France or were guillotined by revolutionaries—Labille-Guiard managed to distance herself from her aristocratic patrons. She adopted the revolutionary cause by exhibiting portraits of political leaders and government officials that featured the sober style associated with republican ideals. Portrait of a Man is from this period of Labille-Guiard’s artistic output. The stark background, lack of props or accessories, and the sitter’s expressive demeanor emphasize the man’s individuality and psychology over material wealth.

Eva Gonzalès

Eva Gonzalès, Afternoon Tea, c. 1874, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2018.5.McD

Like many of the artists in this exhibition, Eva Gonzalès came from an affluent family who could afford the cost of private education. The state-sponsored fine art school in Paris would not accept female students until 1897, so the precociously talented Gonzalès enrolled in Charles Chaplin’s private studio for women in 1866. Three years later, she became the only official student of avant-garde artist Edouard Manet. Eventually, she developed her own Impressionistic style characterized by a bright palette, broken brushwork, and the depiction of everyday subjects.

Like Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt—two of Gonzalès’s contemporaries, whose work also appears in this exhibition—Gonzalès was restricted by her sex and elevated social class from depicting most modern urban sites. She instead presented bourgeois femininity and family life, which were cutting-edge subjects in the second half of the 19th century. In this unfinished painting, a woman (likely a nanny) prepares an afternoon meal for the young girl in the foreground. Gonzalès’s use of oil paint—traditionally reserved for male artists—elevated her domestic subject matter to the level of high art.

Gonzalès’s life was tragically cut short in 1883 when she died from complications of childbirth at the age of 34, leaving behind only 124 paintings and pastels. Afternoon Tea is thus a rare example from the oeuvre of a young professional female artist who, though much admired by her contemporaries, remains relatively unknown in the history of art.

Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur, Ewe in the Field, second half of the 19th century, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in honor of Charlotte Whaley, 2018.44

There are few artists, regardless of gender, who achieved the celebrity status and financial success of Rosa Bonheur. As a young girl, Bonheur was encouraged by her father, an artist, to sketch directly from life. She soon developed a profound talent and passion for the realistic portrayal of animals. This was a highly unconventional subject for women, who, like Labille-Guiard and Gonzalès before her, were encouraged to focus on portraiture, domestic genre scenes, or still lifes.

To further develop her talent for rendering the texture and movement of animal fur, Bonheur petitioned the police to allow her to wear pants in order to visit stockyards, horse fairs, and slaughterhouses. These locales were generally off limits to women, or at least difficult to traverse with the billowing skirts women wore in the 19th century. Bonheur eventually achieved great acclaim for her best-known work, The Horse Fair (Metropolitan Museum of Art), which was exhibited at the 1853 Salon. Her notoriety skyrocketed due to her unconventional lifestyle, which included cross-dressing, cigarette smoking, and speaking her mind.

Kelsey Martin is the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Graduate Intern for European Art at the DMA.

Pivotal Women Artists at the DMA

March is Women’s History Month—a designation that was nationally recognized in 1987 due to the hard work of five California-based women who started the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) initiative. Each year, there has been an annual theme, with this year’s being “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” This month is an opportune time to think about the pivotal women artists and movements that have affected my practice as an art historian and museum educator.

Throughout Western art history, women artists have been under- and misrepresented in the art canon. These problematic biases against women of all racial and class backgrounds have been discussed by artists, art historians, and activists alike. Through collectives like the Combahee River Collective, organized by black and queer feminists, and the Guerrilla Girls, who produce on-going campaigns against male-dominated exhibitions (and many more!), women have fought and continue to fight for their existence to be known in spaces that downplay their contributions to the art world. Though there has been great work done by curators, art historians, and museum institutions to revise history and work toward a more equal representation of artists, there is still a copious amount of work to be done.

The DMA’s collection boasts a number of women artists, such as Julie Mehretu, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Berthe Morisot, and others. Below are a few artists whose work is currently on view in the Museum who made innovative contributions to the art canon and the world at-large.

Bridget Riley, Rise 2, 1970, acrylic on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark, 1976.52.FA,  © 1970 Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley is a foundational artist for Op-Art, a style that transformed geometric shapes into optical illusions in order to create a sense of movement. Riley’s name has become synonymous with Op-Art, as her original black-and-white works gained an incredible amount of followers and multiple art prizes in the early to mid-1960s. In the latter part of the decade, Riley explored using colors in her works of art, like Rise 2, to further add elements of instability and illusionistic movement.

Riley’s works of art inspired and infiltrated 1960s pop culture, most notably the fashion industry with the black-and-white houndstooth checkered print seen in the popular mod aesthetics of the time. Due to Riley’s captivating work and popularity, this fashion trend continues to hold weight, as Vogue highlighted Riley in a editorial titled “Why 60s Op-Art Painter Bridget Riley Is the Secret Muse of the Fall 2014 Runway.” Although her work influenced the style of the 1960s, Riley did not enjoy the commodification and commercialization of her art.

Renee Stout, Fetish #1, 1987, monkey hair, nails, beads, cowrie shells, and coins, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Roslyn and Brooks Fitch, Gary Houston, Pamela Ice, Sharon and Lazette Jackson, Maureen McKenna, Aaronetta and Joseph Pierce, Matilda and Hugh Robinson, and Rosalyn Story in honor of Virginia Wardlaw, 1989.128, © Renee Stout, Washington, D.C.

Renee Stout’s move to Washington, DC, in 1985 had a monumental affect on her artistic practice as she sought to understand her identity as a Black-American woman. Her time in DC exposed her to the arts of Western and Central Africa, particularly the Kongo peoples’ nkisi nkondi power figures, an example of which is on view in our African galleries. Through these healing power figures, Stout explores the ritualistic and spiritualistic sides of a possible ancestral tie to the African continent, as seen in Fetish #1. Within this object there are many additive and textural components, as there are with nkisi nkondi figures; however, Stout’s object lacks facial features, adding a mysterious quality that mirrors her feelings toward her personal ancestral past. Click here to learn more about Stout and this work of art in one of the DMA’s Gallery Talks.

Raquel Forner, Apocalypsis, 1955, oil on composition board, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1959.47

Although born in Buenos Aires, Raquel Forner spent a majority of her childhood in Spain due to her father’s Spanish heritage. During this time, Forner became interested in the arts and began training back in her birth city. While briefly teaching at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, she exhibited across the city, with her first solo show in 1928. After traveling back and forth between Europe and South America in the 1930s, she started to borrow ideas from the Surrealism movement, such as distorted perspectives and figures; however, Forner was not interested in interpreting her dreams like Surrealist artists—she wanted to apply these distorted forms to real world situations such as the 1936 Spanish Civil War and the 1955 Argentine social uprisings. The latter event influenced her Apocalypse painting, where she created abstract land forms and overlapping movement of figures to highlight the confusion and negative aspects human conflict creates. This painting was exhibited in the landmark 1959 exhibition South American Art Today at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the predecessor of the DMA. Fifteen works of art from the exhibition were later purchased by the DMA, and nine of those works can currently be seen in the Latin American Gallery, including Forner’s Apocalypse.

Yohanna Tesfai is the McDermott Graduate Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching at the DMA.

The Dallas Museum of Art’s Founding Women

In honor of Women’s History Month, we would like to introduce you to the founder and first four women presidents of the Dallas Art Association from the first decade of the 20th century. The Dallas Art Association (DAA) was founded in 1903 to offer art interest and education through exhibitions and lectures; to purchase works of art on a regular basis and form a permanent collection; to sponsor the work of local artists; to solicit support of the arts from individuals and businesses; and to honor citizens who support the arts. The DAA, after a number of name changes, became the Dallas Museum of Art.

Mrs. May Dickson Exall is considered to be the founder of the Dallas Art Association. In January 1903, Mrs. Exall, then president of the Dallas Carnegie Library Board of Trustees, invited all those interested to meet in the Art Room of the library to form a permanent art organization. About 80 people attended and the new organization was named the Dallas Art Association, and a 21-member board of trustee was established.

Mrs. Grace Leake Dexter was the first president of the Dallas Art Assocation for 1903, and was a board member from 1903 to 1906. Mrs. Dexter was an amateur painter and a civic leader.

From the Collection of the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library; Image #PA92-1/22

Mrs. Lulie Huey Lane was President in 1907. Mrs. Lane was a gifted musician with an unusually fine voice and also held leadership roles in a variety of other civic organizations.

Mrs. Robbie Buckner Westerfield was DAA president in 1908. She was also a leader in religious and women’s club work in Dallas.

1923.2 "Portrait of Mrs. George K. Meyer" by Francis Luis Mora. Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase

Mrs. Sallie Griffis Meyer was president of the DAA from 1909 to 1926. Mrs. Meyer was one of Dallas’s earliest and most prominent arts patrons. In addition to her long tenure as DAA president, she was also superintendent in charge of art for the State Fair of Texas.

Discover more about the DMA’s history on the Museum’s web site.

Hillary Bober is the Digital Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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