Monday, 4 August 2008

"QUELQUES FEMMES PEINTRES" - or - The Class of 1936

"Quelques Femmes Peintres" ("Some Women Painters") is a rare publication from 1936 that I picked up a couple of years ago. It is a French book, limited to 300 copies, which features a selection of female painters who were working in France during the early 20th century. The book was put together by Madeleine Bunoust (who herself was a minor artist) and her modest looking publication (left) provides a useful snapshot of the female artists who were operating in and around that time.

While a couple are featured posthumously (Maria Blanchard, Lucie Cousturier) and a couple went on to great success and fame (Suzanne Valadon, Mary Cassatt) many of those featured are artists who were working in 1936, considered to have great potential, and who have now disappeared into semi-obscurity. Here I will take a look at some of the names chosen for "Quelques Femmes Peintres." (Note: not all featured artists are listed here, I have omitted a couple who will be looked at in further depth on this blog in the future.)

Lucie Cousturier was a writer and minor painter of the neo-impressionist movement. She was taught by Paul Signac, which is evident from both her oil and watercolour technique. [Two works at the Athanaeum]

"Still Life"

"Woman crocheting"

"Negro writing"

"Woman in pink and blue"

EMILIE CHARMY (1878-1974)
Emilie Charmy has already featured on this blog. She now has a website dedicated to her memory.

"The Japanese Dress"

The blog Adventures in the Print Trade has an excellent post on Delasalle.

"Reclining Female"

LOUISE HERVIEU (1878-1954)
Hervieu was born syphilitic and suffered from poor health her whole life. She illustrated works by Baudelaire as well as writing and illustrating her own novels.

Illustration from "Fleurs du Mal" by Baudelaire

Blanchard was a Spanish painter. Born with severe disfigurements, she lead a life of solitude and poverty and was often ill. Her works often explore the world of children and regularly feature food and meal time settings. She briefly dabbled in cubism. Despite her hardship she enjoyed a long and relatively successful career and today she is reasonably well known - her paintings are sought after and sell for large sums. [Full biography] [Blanchard's cubist period]

"La Gourmandise"

"L'enfant au bol"

"Portrait of a young woman"

Bournet has a website dedicated to her legacy which features many of her paintings.

HERMINE DAVID (1886-1970)
As with a few of these painters Hermine David perhaps suffered from being married to another artist who enjoyed far greatest success, in this case the Bulgarian Jules Pascin. That said, she was a prolific artist who carved out a career for herself as an accomplished etcher and book illustrator as well as a painter, and her works are widely collected today. [Website] [Biography and works] [Portrait of David by Pascin]

"Hotel Edgard Quinet"

Adrienne Jouclard has a blog dedicated to her, where you can see many of her works as well as a biography in French. Beyond that, and a street named after her in her native Onville, she is more or less forgotten. She painted in a lively and pleasing style - her documentary style paintings of dance halls and sporting events are probably the best of her oeuvre. ["Boxuers"]


At the time of the books publication Davidson was vice-president of the Society of Modern Women Artists (Femmes Artistes Modernes.) An Australian, Bessie Davidson exhibited regularly at the Paris Salons and lived all her adult life in Montparnasse, dying there in 1965. She is the only Australian woman artist to be awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur and while she does not feature significantly in histories of the time, she is admired in her native country as one of the notable 20th century Australian painters. [Full biography] [A work in the National Gallery of Australia]

"The Green Book"

"Still life with Blossoms and Books"

"Scottish Landscape"

Suzanne Lalique was the daughter of the famed glass designer Rene Lalique. She designed glass and porcelain for her father and for Theodore Haviland before turning to photography and later painting. She married the photographer Paul B. Haviland (the brother of Frank B. Haviland who was an associate and sitter for Modigliani and Soutine.) Of all the more obscure artists featured in the book I would choose Lalique as the most accomplished alongside Blanchard. She painted charming and evocative little still lives of domestic objects. Her work is highly accomplished and identifiable on sight, and it's a shame that so little is apparently known about her. From what I have been able to gather painting may have been just another diversion in what was a busy and privileged life, which may explain why her artistic career never got off the ground, and why her works seem so scarce today. [Portrait of Lalique by Paul B. Haviland] [Cup and saucer design by S. Lalique] [Rene Lalique Timeline]

"Les cravates de monsieur"

"La boite bleu"

"L'ami de peuple"

"Photos de famille"

"Ronds de serviette"

Peugniez painted domestic scenes containing religious symbolism, and also worked on altar pieces and other church decorations. She helped design the stained glass in Notre-Dame-des-Missions-du-cygne d'Enghien church. Beyond that very little is known, and her work seems scarce. ["Piano Lesson" @ Papillon Gallery]

VALENTINE PRAX (1899-1981)
A Dutch gallery is in the process of building a website dedicated to Prax. She is best remembered as a minor figure of the Paris scene between the two World Wars and wife of the sculptor Ossip Zadkine whom she married in 1920. Her canvasses are usually busy affairs, full of activity and often featuring figures constructed using geometric shapes similar in style to the sculptures of her husband. Her work sells today in the low thousands. [Valentine Prax bibliography] [Ossip Zadkine] [Musee Zadkine, Paris.]

"Les Arlequins"

In the book Bunoust advertises a forthcoming publication also focussed on the work of female painters, but no trace of this book can be found so it remains unclear if it was ever published. She modestly places herself at the very back of the book with the message "I will not respond to the desire of my friends and take my place in the collection, but to remain in their company I will submit one work in my signature style." The work is a poor portrait. As an artist Bunoust seems to have dabbled in a number of styles, but her work is almost impossible to find and not of great quality. The watercolour below sold for $144 in 2005, while her book "Quelques Femmes Peintres" currently sells for around $300.

"On the outskirts of Fez"


lotusgreen said...

i find this post so touching, and love your choices, particularly 'the green book,' and the kimono, of course.

i've been taken by the same thing: all of the "Little-known and under-appreciated art(ists). i find the fact that the list is so long both a tragedy and an opportunity.

it gives me the oppertunity to discover someone i didn't know of nearly daily, and then i go 'egad! how can everyone not know them??!'

on the other hand, people are finally discovering arthur wesley dow, and gustave baumann. ten years ago nobody had, and there were no posters available, and little access.

i get this feeling sometimes that the internet is a 'catcher in the rye'; it is bringing back everything lost, and making sure nothing gets lost ever again.

Neil said...

Great post - thanks for all this work. I know how hard it is to gather even basic information on obscure women artists. And of course thanks for the nod to Adventures in the Print Trade, too.