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Clark Art Institute exhibition presents Trailblazing Women Artists

June 6, 2018 12:47 pm

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Clark Art Institute’s summer 2018 exhibition, Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900, celebrates an international group of artists who overcame gender-based restrictions to make extraordinary creative strides, taking important steps in the fight for a more egalitarian art world. Featuring nearly seventy paintings drawn from prominent collections across the United States and abroad, the exhibition includes works by renowned artists including Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and Rosa Bonheur as well as their equally remarkable peers such as Anna Ancher, Lilla Cabot Perry, Louise Breslau, Eva Gonzalez, and Marie Bashkirtseff. Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 was organized by the American Federation of Arts and curated by Laurence Madeline. The Clark Art Institute will be its final venue, where it will be on view June 9–September 3, 2018.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Paris was a cultural mecca, luring artists from around the world to its academies, museums, salons, and galleries. Despite the city’s cosmopolitan character, gender norms remained strikingly conservative and women painters faced obstacles not encountered by their male counterparts. For example, the École des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts)—the country’s most important art academy—did not admit female students until 1897.

As a result, women pursued art education by attending private academies, where they produced a wide array of work including portraits, landscapes, history paintings, and scenes from everyday life. In order to advance their art, they exhibited independently and formed their own organizations, such as the influential Union des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs (established in 1881).

Following their time in Paris, many artists, including Harriet Backer (Norwegian, 1845–1932), Kitty Kielland (Norwegian, 1843–1914), and Cecilia Beaux (American, 1855–1942), returned to their home countries to work, teach, and establish their own schools, creating the foundations for the training and development of future generations of women artists.

Public Programs

In a lecture on June 10 at 3:00 pm, curator Esther Bell will speak about the remarkable achievements of the artists represented in the exhibition, as well as the barriers they encountered in their artistic education and later careers. A conversation with Laurence Madeline, Chief Curator for French National Heritage, and curator of Women Artists in Paris, follows the lecture.

The Clark will offer daily gallery talks from July 1–August 31, at 3:30 pm. Visitors can learn more about the incredible female artists who worked in France during the second half of the nineteenth century and about the obstacles they overcame to pursue their careers in the arts. These talks are offered at no additional cost and are limited to twenty people each on a first-come, first-served basis.

Exhibition and Catalogue Organizers and Sponsors

Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 is organized by the American Federation of Arts. Guest curator Laurence Madeline, Chief Curator for French National Heritage, was aided by Suzanne Ramljak, AFA Curator, and Jeremiah William McCarthy, AFA Associate Curator. Presentation of the exhibition at the Clark is coordinated by Esther Bell, Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Senior Curator at the Clark.

The exhibition is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional funding is provided by the JFM Foundation, Elizabeth K. Belfer, the Florence Gould Foundation, Monique Schoen Warshaw, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Clare McKeon, Steph and Jody La Nasa, Victoria Ershova Triplett, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and the Finlandia Foundation. Support for the accompanying publication provided by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

Presentation of Women Artists in Paris at the Clark is made possible by the generous contribution of Denise Littlefield Sobel, with additional support from the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation.


The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit organization founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs.


The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts.

The Clark, which has a three-star rating in the Michelin Green Guide, is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. Free admission is available through several programs, including First Sundays Free; a local library pass program; EBT Card to Culture; Bank of America Museums on Us; and Blue Star Museums. For more information on these programs and more, visit or call 413 458 2303.