Women Artists of the Norton Simon Museum
Finally, after a year of COVID lock-downs, restrictions and shutdowns, I was able to visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. Being away for so long was like visiting an old friend and it gave me a whole new perspective on my relationship, love and need not only for art in my life, but access to it.
In years past, my visits to the Norton Simon were all about the art and following my instinct to discover and experience whatever work called me. I was looking for inspiration and I’ll admit that most of the time I was so engaged in the work that most of the time I was oblivious of the actual artist.
But this time my interest changed and not only was I drawn to the work, but the artist as well. To my surprise, I noticed that most of the pieces I was drawn to were created by women. This came as a surprise because while working towards my BFA, I took several art history classes and I can tell you for a fact that up until the 20th century, most women artists were overlooked or just ignored.
So please allow me to share with you the work that inspired me on my latest journey and I hope that you find the pieces as enlightening and enjoyable as I did. I love the pieces that I am focusing on today not only for their technical skill, but for the beauty and passion I see in each piece.
Nosegay on a Marble Plinth, c. 1695, oil on canvas, Rachel Ruysch (Dutch, 1664-1750)
This small but voluptuous bouquet of cultivated and wild flowers sits, artfully poised, atop a stone ledge. Several delicately painted insects are drawn to the rich cluster of petals. Ruysch has oriented her floral composition along with a strong diagonal: rough, thorny blooms on the right. This sort of depiction of opulence and plenty became the very point of flower painting in the eighteenth century.
(Courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum)
Rachel Ruysch (3 June 1664 – 12 October 1750) was a Dutch still-life painter from the Northern Netherlands. She specialized in flowers, inventing her own style and achieving international fame in her lifetime. Due to a long and successful career that spanned over six decades, she became the best documented woman painter of the Dutch Golden Age, being followed by Jan van Huysum, who took flower painting to another degree of popularity.
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Marie-Geneviève Bouliar (French, 1763-1825) Self Portrait 1792
Marie-Geneviève Bouliar studied with portrait painter Joseph-Siffred Duplessis and was one of a small group of women artists who exhibited at the Paris Salon. Although she remains relatively unknown, her portraits met with critical acclaim during her lifetime. When the French Academy relaxed its ban on women artists’ participation in the Salon, during the period of the Revolution, Bouliar’s work received official recognition. She earned the Prix d’Encouragement (Encouragement Award) in 1795. Her portraits, generally informal in their spirit and simple in presentation, communicated sympathy for their subject. The same is true here where, with her easily coifed hair and her head tilted slightly to the left, Bouliar communicats a spontaneous informality and human warmth. (Courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum)
Portrait of Theresa, Countess Kinsky, 1793 oil on canvas, Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun (French, 1755-1842)
A devoted monarchist and friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette, whose portrait she painted, Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun was forced to abandon her successful career in France after the Revolution. However, the noble families of Italy, Austria and Russia happily welcomed her as their portraitist. Vigee Le Brun produced this image of the Therese, Contess Kinsky, in Vienna, in 1793. The unfortunate victim of arranged marriage, the Countess’s husband abandoned her after their wedding to return to his mistress.
Vigee Le Brun’s subjects were always fashionably dressed and she is known to have devised costumes for them. Here, the Countess’s stunning blue dress with the gold trimmed details, voluminous golden scarf, and the decorative embroidered sash encircling her torso recall the costume a la Grecque that was popular following the Revolution. (Courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum)
Self-portrait in a Straw Hat by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun
Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (also spelled Vigée-Lebrun; French pronunciation: [elizabɛt lwiz viʒe ləbʁœ̃]; 16 April 1755 – 30 March 1842), also known as Madame Le Brun, was a prominent French portrait painter of the late 18th century.
Her artistic style is generally considered part of the aftermath of Rococo with elements of an adopted Neoclassical style. Her subject matter and color palette can be classified as Rococo, but her style is aligned with the emergence of Neoclassicism. Vigée Le Brun created a name for herself in Ancien Régime society by serving as the portrait painter to Marie Antoinette. She enjoyed the patronage of European aristocrats, actors, and writers, and was elected to art academies in ten cities. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)