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Women Impressionists: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzales, Marie Bracquemond Hardcover – Illustrated, 2 Apr 2008

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Great Women Impressionists 30 Jun. 2008
By Shellie - Published on
Format: Hardcover
When it comes to research into art history it is lamentable that the accomplishments of male artists are over represented in scholarly publications, and that those of women artists are by and large glossed over or just plain ignored. This failing of what are traditionally conservative male art historians to address this imbalance is slowly being reevaluated and corrected, a fascinating task, it is being carried out by a new generation of scholarly authors (mostly female) who are giving a revealing and inclusive perspective on the history of Western art. The story of the French Impressionist movement too is no different; with the names of male artists like Renoir, Degas, Sisely, Manet, Monet and Pissaro being well known around the world and with their vividly painted canvases being represented in significant international art galleries. Yet when it comes to the women Impressionists who painted alongside their male peers history is surprisingly silent, and there is a undeserved lack of awareness of their unique place in early modern art. There is an unspoken consensus amongst some academics that these women artists were not quite as talented as their male colleagues, and that there certainly were no creative geniuses amongst their number. Based on a traveling exhibition this impeccably researched volume aims to improve the art loving publics knowledge and understanding of these pioneering women artists who struggled against restrictive social conventions, and entrenched misogyny to achieve their painterly visions of the world around them.

In the 19th Century and well into the 20th Century women were solely expected to fulfill the complimentary roles of motherhood, and obedient housewife. The limited work available to them was primarily of the menial or nurturing kind; as governess, nannies, teachers, maids, nurses or midwives. Though when the inevitable prospect of marriage loomed the vast majority of working women were dutifully expected to give up their jobs, and so their fragile sense of independence. Thus when a woman wished to pursue a career, such as painting, they invariably had to forgo almost any prospect of starting a family and having a "respectable" life as a devoted wife and mother. Throughout Western art history up until the Impressionist era women were also barred from attending most art schools for some truly absurd, prudish and moralistic reasons. When they were allowed the rare privilege of studying alongside men, there was a hidebound social etiquette in place to "protect" them from anything that may have affronted their delicate feminine sensibilities. Unfortunately this stiflingly Victorian attitude discouraged many women from pursuing art in a professional manner, sadly relegating them to the very margins of the art scene as amateurs. Still there was a small yet noteworthy group of women who did choose to become professional (and fairly successful) artists in this deeply oppressive environment. Undaunted by the narrow-minded social conventions of the age they resolutely studied and practiced their craft against almost all odds, eventually winning the begrudging respect of their male peers.

This timely book focuses on the select handful of female artists who belonged in the exclusive circle of the French Impressionists and includes some truly beautiful examples of their oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, sketches and etchings... many in full and vibrant colour. The likes of Bertha Morisot, Eva Gonzales, Marie Bracquemond and the American Mary Cassatt are all included and due attention is given to each artist. The contribution of these four women to this revolutionary fine arts movement has largely (but not entirely) been omitted from the annals of art history, and is indicative of a wider cultural bias against the accomplishments of women in all walks of life. I will admit that I feel it's a great shame that this wonderfully fascinating book does not have more of an international scope, for I'm sure that towards the end of the 19th Century there were many women Impressionists around the developed world whose names and creative oeuvres have been painted out of official histories of art. This engaging book with its lucid essays and colourful photos will open your eyes to the artistic legacy of these gifted yet undervalued women artists, and its publication will be most welcomed by those interested in women's issues. So if like me you admire and appreciate the Impressionists with their pioneering approach to the art of painting, Women Impressionists will be an essential addition to your library.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful Women Impressionists! 12 Dec. 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Beautiful book, great pictures, interesting and facinating text! All around a wonderful book about these fabulous women and their work.
Exceptional works by 19th century women artists 30 Sept. 2014
By Shellye A. McKinney - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I discovered the Women Impressionists at an exhibit at the Musee Marmottan in the mid-1990's. I didn't think there was sufficient interest to ever bring it to the USA, but I was wrong! My beloved Legion of Honor - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco brought it stateside and produced this gorgeous catalog to accompany the exhibition. Nice reproductions of the paintings and some outstanding critiques of the work. This is a wonderful addition to the library of any fans of the Impressionist movement and is also a great resource for art students who aren't familiar with the works of these women artists.
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