Women Impressionists & Beyond
Berthe Morisot | Mary Cassatt | Eva Gonzales | Marie Bracquemond | Jennifer Bartlett | Dianne Arancibia | Hanna Hoch
Join us for a celebratory look at seven compelling women artists. Inspired by the current exhibit at the San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, “Women Impressionists”, featuring the works of Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Eva Gonzales and Marie Bracquemond.
After stepping through the looking glass gallery at the end of the 19th century, we’ll focus on three more contemporary women painters of substance.
Dianne Arancibia-talented Bay Area Abstract Expressionist
Jennifer Bartlett-California native, Post Modern painter
Hannah Hoch-Weimer Germany, Dadaist
I shall obtain independence by
presenting and making no secret of my intention of emancipating myself!”
ABOUT THE EXHIBITON
BY MARK WILSON
At the turn of the twentieth century, women artists were struggling to gain recognition and respect. The S.F. Legion of Honor’s exhibit on “Women Impressionists”makes this quite clear. When visitors read the biographies of the four talented women painters included; Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzales, and Marie Bracquemond, they realize how much these women had to overcome to achieve independent careers in a male-dominated society. At the beginning of the 21st. century, professional women are still struggling to achieve the same level of respect and acceptance that their male counterparts receive. The presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton is a classic case in point. As many of us who followed the media coverage of Clinton’s campaign observed, the portrayal of her in the mainstream media was biased to put it mildly. I.e.; characterizing her as a “dragon lady”, her ambition as “over reaching” and her “laugh as a cackle”.
As one of her supporters put it recently on a Bay Area news program right after she conceded to Barrack Obama, “once again, a more qualified woman was passed over for a less qualified man”.
“The sheer joy of looking”…direct links to the past…
Whether it be playful romps in warm Provencal gardens, or furtive glances in a darkly lit loge, the gallery walls were spinning with indelible impressions of a by gone era.
Each section of the Women Impressionists features a retrospective of each of the four artists.
Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt were clearly the cornerstones of women’s participation in the Impressionist movement. For many visitors, I included, it was a delight to re discover the powerful works of Marie Bracquemond, who stopped painting due to the discouragement of her husband, but the true reopened treasure chest of that evening were the paintings by Eva Gonzales.
Eva Gonzales “A star is re born”…
By Ruth Carroll
At first glance, the style of Eduard Manet comes to mind, with her rich application of deep greens and sensual browns. I was unaware that Gonzales was a pupil of Manet’s and like her teacher never exhibited with the famous Impressionist painters in their exhibitions in Paris. She was however considered part of the group because of her painting style.One can see why her , “A Loge in the Theatre des Italiens” was considered one of the most provocative paintings of its day. In comparing it to Renoir’s “La Loge” , the former pales to the emotional resonance evoked by her use of dark, somber hues while creating a “tableaux of separation” felt between the man & woman portrayed in her version.
Sadly, her amazing talent was cut short by her untimely death at the age of 34.
BEYOND WOMEN IMPRESSIONISTS
Dianne Arancibia - Abstract Expressionist
by Ruth Carrol
“Inspiration in a 21st Century Palette”
Born and raised in the beautiful Napa Valley, Dianne then moved to L.A. when she was a teenager in the 60’s. There she spent a lot of time hanging out while meeting famous rock stars, including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Byrds, and The Mamas and the Papas. It was in L.A. where she experimented with various forms of art, primarily working at representational art, at that point in time. To quote Dianne, “I always thought I should be an artist, but just couldn’t find my medium, or the nerve to do it”. She kept trying representational art without any success. About five years ago she took an intention class, where she was asked to paint for a year. During this memorable year, she discovered that she could begin painting at 10:00p.m. and continue painting until the sun came up, and never realize that there had been a passage of time. “When I would work on a piece, I would often feel overwhelming emotion. I could paint a situation or a difficulty and then release the change it had”. Friends and buyers of her art have often remarked that they feel the “organic process”, the emotion and passion from her work, and that it seemed to work on them in the same way it did for her. After a brief time she found herself painting all night, on many nights, and subsequent to her first year of painting, she held her first art show which promptly sold 1/3 of the paintings exhibited.
To quote Dianne, “It has been an alchemical process for me. “I lose all track of time and space while painting, and often it feels like “altered space”. It doesn’t feel like I’m painting, more as though I’m being painted”, she continues, “When I concentrate or meditate on the person I’m painting for, interesting forms are created that were unplanned. Her process is simply painting whatever is in her heart, and “opening up” to whatever comes. One of her friends calls her paintings “mindscapes”. They have also been called, alchemical paintings. She signs her paintings with her name and an alchemical symbol, which she picked up randomly not knowing its meaning or origins. She was just taken by the extreme beauty of the symbol. While looking through a friends book entitled, "Gateways of the Divine" she came across a compelling symbol she found to be very beautiful. After she started using this symbol along with her signature, her friend noticed it, & told her it was the feminine alchemist symbol, she then dubbed her style, “alchemical art”.
Dianne takes raw, hurt emotions (like Iron or other less lovely metals) and turns them into beauty and grace (gold) hence, alchemical art. She continues to be profoundly influenced by the colors and textures of India, Bali and Mexico, as well as her love of the paintings by such artists as, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Sandro Botticelli, Waterhouse, and many more
Jennifer Bartlett Post Modern Painter - An artist of substance
by Mark Wilson
One of the most accomplished modern artists in the world today is Jennifer Bartlett, a Post Modern painter whose evocative canvasses have been displayed in museums and private collections on four continents. One of her most intriguing and innovative works is a series of four paintings titled, “Elements”. In the canvas from the series called “Water”, she incorporates influences from Monet’s famous water lily series, but also includes motifs from Greek mythology, Scottish clan tartans, and religious symbolism. Shown here, “Elements 4 Fire”, from her Elements series.
Hanna Hoch** Weimar Germany**Dadaist
“Modern women face speed, societal urbanization & über technology”
1889-born Nov. 1, as Johanne Hoch in Gotha. Her mother an amateur painter, her father a manager for an insurance company.
To learn more about Hannah Hoch click here.
To learn more about Weimer Germany and Dadaism click here.
Berthe Morisot (1841–1895)
Born in Bourges in 1841, Berthe Morisot moved permanently to Paris with her family ten years later. She was well educated and brought up in a cultured and refined atmosphere. At the age of 16, Morisot began taking painting and drawing lessons. She became a student of the landscape painter Camille Corot, and benefited greatly from his six years of guidance. During this time, she found her true vocation in painting en plein air (outdoors), often incorporating figures.
While copying masterpieces at the Louvre in 1868, Morisot met Edouard Manet, for whom she developed great admiration and fondness. The feelings were mutual, and the two artists became close colleagues. Manet helped Morisot acquire a self-assured and relaxed brushstroke, while she persuaded him to paint en plein air. On a number of occasions Morisot posed for Manet, who celebrated her as a talented associate as well as his muse. She struggled with her independent spirit and resisted the social convention of marriage for many years until finally marrying Manet’s brother, Eugène, in 1874. Morisot adapted her art as she adjusted to married life and motherhood, having moved to the country and given birth to her daughter, Julie, who became her true muse.
Although Morisot successfully submitted work to the Salon in the 1860s, she inevitably became a member of the Impressionist circle, having associated with many of its key members for years. She was the only woman to show in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. From that point she ceased submitting work to the Salon, subsequently participating in the independent Impressionist exhibitions of 1876, 1877, 1880, 1881, 1882, and 1886. Ambitious and accomplished, Morisot became one of the most prolific Impressionists. Through her broad, free brushstrokes, she evoked a sense of freedom in her works. Her subjects were often posed outdoors, enveloped by sunlight. From child, to wet-nurse, to sister, to husband, figures in Morisot’s works seem to radiate with light from the brushstrokes that sparingly define their forms.
Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)
Born into privilege in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mary Cassatt spent four years of her youth living in Europe before beginning her art studies in 1861 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In 1866 she traveled extensively in Europe to study the old masters and studied briefly with the Parisian painter Charles Chaplin. She settled permanently in Paris in 1874, where she developed her most significant professional relationship with Edgar Degas. Cassatt, the devoted daughter, rejected the norms of marriage and motherhood, instead embracing her independence and forging a successful career.
In 1877, Cassatt was joined in Paris by her parents and her sister, Lydia, who was chronically ill with Bright’s disease. Increasingly fragile, Lydia was Cassatt’s closest companion and her favorite model. Her early death in 1882 deeply saddened Cassatt, who devoted herself even more intensely to her work. Although she was formally trained and had her work accepted into the Salon, her independent spirit led her to take an immediate interest in the Impressionists. Cassatt became their only American member of the Impressionist circle, and she exhibited in the Impressionist exhibitions of 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1886.
Cassatt focused her work primarily on portraiture within domestic scenes. She provided a sense of intimacy with her subjects by using a shallow space for her compositions. Cassatt is perhaps best known for depictions of mother and child, in which she downplays the theme’s sentimentality to focus on formal aspects of the composition.
Cassatt was ambitious and stood out among her circle in Paris, as well as in the U.S., where she helped bring the work of the Impressionists to the attention of wealthy collectors. Of the four artists in Women Impressionists, Morisot and Cassatt enjoyed the closest friendship and artistic exchange. Around 1893, Cassatt wrote to Morisot, “Women should be someone and not something.” In 1914 Cassatt was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. Losing most of her sight over the next years, she ceased to pursue her art.
Marie Bracquemond (1840–1916)
Born in Brittany in 1840, Marie Bracquemond had an unstable and nomadic childhood. Her father died shortly after her birth and her mother soon remarried. Unlike the other three women in Women Impressionists, Bracquemond did not enjoy the opportunities of privilege and was largely self-taught as an artist. As she liked to tell the story, her first work of art was a birthday present for her mother, in which she used the pigments of crushed wildflower petals as paints. Impressed with her ingenuity, a family friend presented her with a box of watercolors, and she persevered.
Bracquemond’s career would be formed through interaction with fellow artists. She received constructive criticism and advice early on from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and later from Paul Gauguin and Alfred Sisley. Beginning in 1857, she showed work in the Salon, and she was commissioned to make copies of paintings in the Louvre. It was there that she met established printmaker Félix Bracquemond, whom she married in 1869. Their son, Pierre, was born a year later, and the following year they moved from Paris to Sèvres where Félix designed decorative objects, particularly Limoges porcelain. They collaborated on design projects and she produced her own hand-painted porcelain. He was well connected in the art world and friendly with some of the Impressionists, but he opposed their aesthetics. She, on the other hand, was drawn to them and most admired the work of Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Always experimental in her works, Bracquemond was encouraged by her fellow artists to exhibit with the Impressionists in 1879, 1880, and 1886.
Bracquemond has remained the least known of the women associated with the Impressionists, fundamentally because her husband was highly critical of her work. Her rejection of the aesthetic that her husband had publicly adopted, along with his very difficult character, created major obstacles to her career as an artist. Bracquemond’s portrait subjects included her sister, Félix, her son, and friends such as Alfred Sisley and his wife, who were often dinner guests at the Bracquemonds’ home in Sèvres. Of her struggle to paint in spite of her husband’s discouragement, the artist wrote that she “had decided to overcome any obstacle; instead of painting flowers I want to work on painting and express whatever feelings the work would inspire in me.” Unfortunately, Félix ultimately won, and she stopped painting after 1890. In 1894, the critic Gustave Geffroy described Bracquemond in History of Impressionism as one of the “grand dames of Impressionism” along with Cassatt and Morisot. In 1919, several years after her death, Pierre organized a retrospective of 90 of his mother’s paintings, 34 watercolors, and nine engravings at a gallery in Paris. The current exhibition includes the largest group of Bracquemond’s works assembled since that exhibition and affords a rare opportunity to study the work of this little-known Impressionist.
Eva Gonzalès (1849–1883)
Born in Paris in 1849, Eva Gonzalès benefited from a cultured and sophisticated upbringing among the intellectual elite. Her father was a popular French novelist of Spanish origin, and her Belgian mother was an accomplished musician. She was enrolled in Charles Chaplin’s studio in 1866, the same year as Cassatt’s brief period of study there. By the age of 20, Gonzalès had begun studying with Manet, who famously did not take on students. She became his sentimental favorite and, like Morisot, often served as his model. In 1870 Gonzalès exhibited her work at the Paris Salon, winning the acclaim of many critics.
Although she was greatly influenced by Manet’s technique, Gonzalès developed her own style for portraiture. She combined her formal training with the influences of Impressionism to create works that display subtle emotion and rich detail. Like Manet, she never exhibited with the Impressionists but was considered part of their circle. She preferred to exhibit her work in the official Salons, even though her work often incorporated Impressionist techniques, such as broad and broken painterly brushstrokes. Gonzalès’ A Loge in the Théâtre des Italiens (1874), described as one of the most provocative paintings of its day and featured in this exhibition, was rejected by the Salon in 1874. In this work she combined a richness of detail with the absence of a definitive background to create an arresting composition.
Gonzalès’ mature style was just coming to fruition when her life was cut short at the age of 34. She died from an embolism in 1883, three weeks after giving birth to a son, Jean Raimon, and ironically just five days after the death of Manet. Her sister Jeanne, who frequently served as her model, married her husband following her death.