AGO: Making Her Mark, part 2

The Art Gallery of Ontario sends out a newsletter, “Foyer”, that incorporates current exhibition. It helps provide additional information about the artists and their works. For “Making Her Mark” one issue focused on four of the women artists. For this blog I’ll introduce you to those four plus some additional art. I’ll paraphrase from the newsletter and the exhibition signage.

“Portrait of an artist with a Portfolio (Self-Portrait?)”, c. 1793. Black chalk, pen and gray ink and wash, heightened with white gouache on paper, 32 × 40.4 cm

Anne Guéret was an 18th Century French portrait painter. She studied under the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. This portrait, possibly modelled after Anne herself, was her debut piece for the 1793 Salon of Paris.

Looking closely you can see the sketch is of a nude male model. The curators surmised that she would not have drawn this from a real nude male. The culture may have been more permissible but not that much. Anne most likely drew from a print or sculpture. Still it represents a shift in acceptance of women in the professional world.

“Self Portrait”, around 1630, Dutch. Oil on canvas. Judith Leyster

In this painting, Judith is ready for action. Paint brush in one hand while gripping a bunch more in the other. She has a “am I not fantastic” look on her face. She is conveying to society that she is both an intellectual and professional.

Also note her dress – lace and finery. Not exactly a paint covered smock. She became quite famous and was the first woman admitted to the Haarlem Saint Luke’s Guild – her hometown professional arts organization.

“Portrait of an Artist Drawing a Landscape in her Sketchbook”, 1831, oil on canvas. French.
Amélie Legrand de Saint-Aubin

Yipee – a Saint Aubin was represented. I don’t paint but I do have about 8 adult colouring books that I use on a regular basis. So it was good to find out about Amélie.

Women were not allowed to enter Paris’ École des beaux-arts until 1897. So, what you might have expected, women opened their own academies. Amélie attended a women only one in 1813 to develop her skill and artistic expression.

Each year she submitted works to the Paris Salon – any man or woman could submit with a total of 17 exhibitions. By 1837 she was giving private lessons to other women. “Sisters doing it for themselves.”

Entered a section entitled “Domestic Luxury” – women helping women. The more well to do would purchase or commission art works from the artisanal folks. Lacemakers, silversmiths and painters benefited financially from this acknowledgements. The works, gracing the homes of the wealthy, enhanced and spread the word of these artists.

“Still Life with Watermelon and Pears”, 1670. Portuguese. Josefa Ayala.

One such artist was Josefa Ayala. She was an independent female painter in 17th century Portugal – the only documented one. She was taught by her father. She was sought after for commissions and her works made her wealthy for a woman painter at that time.

“Still Life with Fruit, Cardoon, and Carrots, around 1689, oil on canvas. Josefa Ayala

Samplers were part of the needlework education. They demonstrated the women’s talent, skill and expertise as an artist. They were both educational and biographical in detail. By using images from printed books, a network of needlers was established from Europe to Americas.

“Sampler”, 1656, linen worked with silk thread, English. Anna Bockett

Anna honed her needlework skills during the Oliver Cromwell period. She inscribed her name and the date (nothing like copyrighting your work). And the courting scene has a little dog waiting for a treat.

“Sampler”, 1798, silk embroidery on cotton, Dutch. S.F.

“Sampler”, 1792, silk embroidery on wool, English. Elizabeth Larter

“Sampler of country scene and border designs”, 1737, silk and cotton embroidery. Central America. Maria de la Luz Letona.

Buy the mid-1700s, women, as professional artists, were “making their mark”. With the advent of art dealers, auction houses and salons to present, women artists were able to sell their works and acquire a reputation.

There was also gatherings in the private homes of wealthy patrons where women could network. At this same time experienced women artists began to teach younger protégés

“Flower Arrangement”, 1748, porcelain, French. Marie-Henriette Gravant, Workshop Director

Colonialism had an influence on artistic expression during this time. Plants, animals and birds became subjects of works. Some women had the means to travel to foreign places to capture the images.

Colonial subjects were considered “exotic” and popular with wealthy patrons.

“A Blue and Yellow Macaw”, around 1789, watercolour, English. Sarah Stone

Sarah developed her skills as a child whose father was a fan painter. As a teenager she was hired to paint the taxidermized specimens in the Leverian museum. Many were taken from other countries during Britain’s expeditions.

This work established her reputaiton as an illustrator. She is alleged to have made thousands of illustrations, many of which are in private collections or not yet documented.

“Plate for a dessert service”, French. Pauline Knip

“Shock Dog”, 1782, Carrara marble, British. Anne Seymour Damer

And we end our tour with this little guy – a life size statue of a Maltese dog. Shock dog is a nickname for the Maltese breed.

In pre-modern Europe, it was almost impossible for a woman to have a sculpture practice. You were either part of the wealthy elite or a relative of a male master sculptor.

Anne was in such a position. Her father was a British General and godfather was Horace Walpole. Walpole encouraged her at a young age to be a sculptor. She studied under Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ceracchi.

During her career she exhibited over 30 works at the Royal Academy of Arts in London

In 2014, the American journalist, Barbara Walters, gifted Shock Dog to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in honour of her dog Cha Cha – a Cuban Havanese.

Don’t you just love it when a blog post on art can end with a dog story.

I’m going to go back in June to see more of the exhibit. I only saw maybe a quarter of the exhibits. I won’t write anymore about that – just go to enjoy.