In 1881, the founder of Paris’s Union des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs [union of female painters and sculptors] angrily declared, “The female artist is an ignored, little-understood force, delayed in its rise!” This late 19th century Paris union engaged a community of painters, ceramic artists, sculptors, and others. They persevered in their art despite encountering challenges. This moment in history allowed women to take formal art classes, enter academies of art for women and train seriously to improve and promote their craft and become successful in the art world.
Here are some distinguished 19th-century female artists who persevered in their efforts to be recognized:
Helga von Cramm
Baroness Helga von Cramm was an illustrator, watercolorist, and graphic artist. She lived comfortably and displayed her realistic, delicate, and precise works in many locations. In 1876, von Cramm met poet Frances Ridley Havergal, soon becoming friends. This relationship led to von Cramm’s illustrating his poems.
Traveling frequently with her sister, a composer, and pianist, artist Harriet Backer, improved by replicating old master paintings. In 1874, she furthered her education in Munich and continued her studies in Paris, France, four years later. While there, she frequented the Salon Marie Trélat and was inspired by the Impressionists’ works. After ten years, she returned to Norway permanently, where she managed a painting school for several years. Among many awards for her work, she received a silver medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1889.
A French Impressionist, Berthe Morisot had the advantages of her father’s bourgeois status and DNA because she was related to Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Her lovely painting Woman at Her Toilette hangs in Chicago’s Art Institute.
Elizabeth Shippen Green
Renowned for her illustrations in Harper’s Magazine, Elizabeth Shippen Greene had the good fortune of being the daughter of an artist. While studying at the Drexel Institute, she formed friendships with two artists, and they became known as the Red Rose Girls.
One of the most appreciated Post-Impressionist artists, Olga Boznańska, who had private lessons from many artists, was inspired by Diego Velázquez’s work.
A Canadian painter, Sophie Pemberton, studied art in San Francisco, Paris, and London. As an adult, she lived in Paris, where she studied at the Académie Julian. She was the first Canadian artist to receive the Prix Julian, an award for portraiture.