On the Margins of History - Lecture 3

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Painting a bigger picture : Women Artists An ability to paint pretty watercolours was seen as a sign of refinement and valued on the marriage market. Selling your art was an anathema. Louise Vigée Lebrun was an amazing survivor who in many ways owed her international celebrity to the French Revolution. She was patronised by Marie Antoinette for over six years and so had to flee to Italy and the Netherlands where she became the most renowned portrait painter of her day, extending her fame to the courts of Russia and England. Berthe Morisot and her sister Edma were talented artists, from an upper middle class Parisian family. Edma chose marriage over art and sank into depression while Berthe exhibited at the Salon and was central to the Impressionist group. She was fortunate to marry Edouard Manet’s brother who spent his life supporting her art. Suzanne Valadon who appears in portraits by Degas, Renoir and Toulouse Lautrec was long thought of as just a model, circus performer and disfunctional mother of the Montmartre artist Utrillo. In fact she was an innovative artist best known for her candid female nudes which shocked polite society.

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