Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 29, 2018

PREVIEW: Clark Art Institute: Trailblazing Women Artists

Clark Art Institute , Williamstown, MA
June 9 – September 3, 2018

ECHO, by Ellen Thesleff (1891)
Oil On Canvas, Photo by Kjell Soderlund
Courtesy American Federation of Arts
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 70 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 numerous equally remarkable peers. Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 was organized by the American Federation of Arts and curated by Laurence Madeline.

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. Women painters in the 19th century engaged in portraiture, shaping an image of themselves as serious artists. Social restrictions hindered women’s full participation in artistic circles.

The perception of childhood evolved as an important stage in the formation of healthy adults, and children were celebrated as the future of a family’s line. This new attention lavished on children coincided with the burgeoning aspirations of women artists. These painters produced images that poignantly celebrate the wonder of childhood and the profound nature of motherhood. Mary Cassatt specialized in maternal scenes and portraits of children.

In a lecture on June 10 at 3:00 pm, curator Esther Bell will speak about the achievements of the artists represented in the exhibition. A conversation with Laurence Madeline, Chief Curator for French National Heritage, and curator of Women Artists in Paris, follows.

The Clark Art Institute 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. For more information on these programs and more, visit or call 413-458-2303.