Women painters from 1780 – 1830

Adrienne Marie-Louise Grandpierre-Deverzy, 1822.

The Luxembourg museum, close to the artists quarters of Saint Germain, in Paris, is situated in a lush park. Its opening exhibition shows women painters, a rarity in those days.

Aimée Brune, 1839

It was a big day, this 31 May 1783, when the prestigious Royal Academy of Painters welcomed a new member: the talented Adélaïde Labille-Gaillard. Soon afterwards, another woman, close to the royal family, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, also insisted on becoming a member. Her magnificent portrait of Marie-Antoinette, her protégée, is displayed in this intimate exhibition.

A quota to accept only four women had been established long ago among an abundance of men. However, a few years later, this one hundred year old Academy was transformed into an Institute and women painters were accepted in greater numbers. They excelled in the art of portraits. Women could not paint nudes because, at the time, the models were exclusively males…

The relative democratization between the genders, opened up doors to otherwise closed ateliers for these women painters. They were thus accepted as pupils for male teachers. It further led to free of charges, highly classified, drawing classes for the impoverished ’demoiselles’ who possessed an artistic talent.

Marie-Victoire Lemoine, 1802

This short epoch was called la parenthèse enchantée – or the ’enchanted parentheses’. During this period, the art world experienced a women painters’ boom. During the 1783 painting exhibition a commentator wrote that: ’women have truly become rivals of their male counterparts and these shall have to deal with some real competition!’

I was surprised at the dexterity and vigor in those paintings, mostly depicting other women. Many of which were auto-portraits, often sitting painting, with their brushes and easel at hand or holding a child. They favored intimate, domestic scenes sometimes with fun touches, like the woman who’s attaching her shoe laces. They also showed great dexterity in the ’sentimental genre’ that enhanced feelings by painting music being played for example.

Constance Mayer, 1802, auto-portrait

However, apart from the two above cited women painters, most  of the others have been ’buried’ and forgotten in the collective memory… This exquisite, rather small, exhibition finally gives them justice.  

Anne Edelstam,

Peintre Femmes, 1780 – 1830

Musée du Luxemburg, Paris

19 May to 4 July 2021

Dufy’s Paris

Raoul Dufy’s colorful paintings of Paris open the season’s exhibition at the Musée de Montmartre in Paris.

Montmartre used to be the artists quarters during the middle of the 19th – and beginning of the twentieth century. It’s still like a village, with its hills, grapevines, parks, paved side-walks, numerous ateliers and small houses. Paris, although one of Europe’s largest capitals, resembles a conglomerate of villages, assembled during different epochs to eventually form todays large city. However, Parisians still prefer to hang around their own ’arrondissement’ though, where they have their favorite bakery, butcher, cheese shop and tobacco store. 

Le Grand Concert, 1948

I took the subway up to Montmartre. This usually so overcrowded area with loads of tourists, was quite empty this rainy morning. Paris was still in lockdown but preparing for its slow reopening on May 19. Outdoor cafés will be allowed and museums will open their doors. I was lucky to be able to see this extraordinary exhibition beforehand. The museum is in itself worth the detour with its cute little garden and lovely location, overlooking Paris.

’Le Paris de Dufy’ exhibition is his view of Paris. It’s like being in a time-machine to see Dufy’s works of art. Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) showed, at a young age, a special dexterity for drawing. He became quickly well-known within the Parisian art circles for his compositions, elegance and coloring skills. The Swedish Ballet in Paris (1920-25) hired him to do the decorations for one of their ballets at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

Le départ pour la soirée, 1936

The exhibition starts on the first floor with an oil painting of the capital seen from Montmartre. Otherwise, it’s organized in thematic- rather than in chronological order and covers most of Dufy’s skills from oils to watercolors, drawings, woodcuts, tapestries and ceramics. Raoul Dufy possessed a wide range of skills but kept, throughout them all, a taste for color and elegance using a light pencil line. Splashing wasn’t his style nor did he attempt to integrate any of his contemporaries’ ways – although he dipped both into impressionism and in cubism. His compositions are special and not classical, although figurative.

In the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, Paris Bohemians met, each Sunday afternoon, at the Moulin de la Galette. Dufy, along with Von Gogh and Renoir among others, couldn’t resist the temptation to paint the typical scenes they observed. I could really feel being part of the gang just by looking at his paintings. I also thoroughly enjoyed going to the theatre and concerts along with Dufy and all the elegant women and men. He was born into a family of musicians, so music was part of his life which shows in his art.

Atelier de Paris avec nu, 1944

From the buzz of concert- and theatre halls, shifting to a quieter mood, I entered his colorful atelier, painted as an empty room, but with the windows wide opened on Paris. Still paying homage to music, by painting a violin on one of the tables. Dufy also illustrated numerous books, catalogues and brochures.

One room showed his nudes that weren’t my preferences. They reminded me somewhat of Picasso and his distorted figures. What I did love were the textiles, depicting Parisian scenes, that he had designed for an entire set of furniture, as well as a large, intricate, textile screen. During the 1920s he worked relentlessly with tapestry and some of the best known French manufacturers.

Textiles

His curiosity knew no boundaries! He also dipped into the art of frescos by doing an enormous one for the French electric company – called La Fee Electricité – or the electric fairy!

His outdoor Parisian scenes go mostly in greens and are as impressive as his fashion drawings.

Nogent, pont rose et chemin de fin, 1935

Whatever preferences one might have, there can’t be any differences in view of Raoul Dufy’s dexterity in his drawing skills or when depicting Parisian scenes. We can thank painters like him, and museums that show us their works, to get a glimpse of what life used to be during long forgotten times. This article is but a taste of what you’ll discover for yourselves once you’ve made your way up to this artistic and special part of Paris. 

La réception, 1931-35

Anne Edelstam

Musée de Montmartre

Le Paris de Dufy

12 rue Cortot, Paris 18ème

19 May – Autumn 2021 

Zorn: a Swedish superstar

This is a somewhat equivocal title for this spring’s exhibition of the painter Anders Zorn (1860 – 1920), showing at our National museum in Stockholm. It’s true that he was well-known but for some, he’s outdated. I tried to find out what such a traditional painter can offer a contemporary viewer. 

Stockholm National Museum has finally opened its doors after several months of lockdown. It wasn’t long ago that the museum closed its doors for three years of restoration. The reopening finally took place a couple of years ago and then the museum had to close again due to the pandemic. The museum’s permanent collections are still closed but the museum was allowed to open this exhibition under strict Corona-restrictions.

I guess that the direction hopes to draw many visitors to view one of Sweden’s most renowned artists. Will the public follow? Well that remains to be seen. I was myself a bit reluctant to go and see yet another exhibition of this for sure  skillful artist but rather conservative in his way of painting.

The exhibition is huge and covers exhaustively his long life as an artist. He developed early on in his career exceptional techniques for his water-colors, oils, etchings and sculptures. Works are shown that are from the National museum’s own collections that I had seen before, as well as some from the Zorn museum in Dalarna but, interestingly enough, there are also paintings from private owners that have never been shown before.

The scenery is not exceptional – rather conventional – and less interesting than the one that was at Petit Palais, in Paris, a few years ago. However the sober decoration at National museum enhances the art works.

The familiarity of his paintings, permitted me to really study his precise brush strokes; lighting inspired by Rembrant; special body colorings and settings, as well as his exceptional rendering of water. Somebody asked me if it was photographs or paintings when I posted some pictures of the exhibition on Internet. No wonder that he gained such an international renommé during his lifetime! 

The exhibition is in chronological order: starting with his water-colors. It wasn’t until 1987 that he began painting in oil as well. There are works from his many trips abroad: from Constantinople, to Alhambra, St Ives, Paris, London and several portraits that he did during his no less than seven trips to the USA.

However, it was Dalarna, his home turf, that was closest to his heart. Zorn’s paintings from everyday life there, having dressed up his muses in their traditional clothes, give us a glimpse of the lives they lived. It’s as much a delight for the eye as it gives us a very vivid historical insight into a way of living that has long passed. Hard labor, no running water, women and children washing in the lakes or in basins, brewing beer or baking bread, as well as traditional dances and drunken men. I felt as if I was partaking in their daily lives.

Stories are being told through his paintings, just as one would read in a good book. It’s the entirety of his works that makes the person behind it interesting. Like a memoir in color.

The elegant portraits also tell us something about that time’s fashion, the fabrics used, the way of portraying oneself and viewing others, whether men or women.

Anders Zorn had an eye for details that indicates a man of great sensitivity. He must have been a romantic as well. His most favored muse was his wife, Emma, that he painted in intimate and delicate scenes. They had no children but his love for children can be sensed by his careful and tender depictions of them in several paintings – often together with their mother. The nudes are those of a sensual man’s.

This traditional artist, who never bent for the tendencies of the moment, but continued throughout his life to paint in his own style, is still valid in our epoch. Zorn will never become boring or out-of-date, thanks to his exceptional skills and to his sensual and deep-looking eye for details.

I came out of the exhibition elevated by the beauty that my eyes had been washed with during the two hours I spent with this world-renowned painter!

Anne Edelstam, Stockholm         

Zorn – en svensk superstjärna

Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

6 april – 29 augusti 2021

Future Nordic Fashion

The nordic fashion that’s shown at Prince Eugene, Waldemarsudde, situated in Stockholm Royal Park, doesn’t have much resemblance to anything Nordic except for its name.

What is Nordic anyways? After having been a rather homogeneous country, Sweden has become very cosmopolitan. This fashion exhibition mirrors this international development. Not only that but the concept of fashion itself has developed from superficial utter garments to becoming more and more of a social manifestation. It’s asking questions about the relationship that we have between fashion, art, identity and sustainability.

This exhibition, in the upstairs’ atelier at Waldemarsudde, points in that direction. Several designers are represented in this somewhat odd show that also encompass films with cat walks and interviews. I will only concentrate on four main designers for the sake of this article. Hopefully this little taste will make you curious to go and find out about all the others as well.

Amina Saada, The Red Bride, 2020

These young designers won a prize this year for their works: Elina Äärelä, Ines Kalliala, Idaliina Friman and Kristian David. They are exhibited on a podium in the large middle room. I was immediately intrigued by their unusual, quite extravagant and interesting designs. 

Elina Äärelä grew up with a Christian background very present, as her father was a pastor. Her design is centered around the Christian message, inspired by the Church’s liturgic clothes and Christly messages. Her collection is called Silent Voice and brings the thoughts to our inner voice, to a personal communication with God. However, she has transformed the formal religious uniforms to sporty versions of the former, with hoodies, sweatpants and gym shoes. By transforming the superficial into something spiritual, she’s not only modernizing but also deepening our connection to fashion.

Kristian David is Swedish with roots from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. To Construct a Bridge is a fitting title for such a multicultural background. His hybrid collection shows this complexity. He’s using the Palestinian shawl, keffiyeh, the long caftan with over-emphasized shoulders to mark a power relation between men and women and between the East and the West. Via this hybrid collection he provokes both worlds.

Kristian David, To construct a bridge, 2020

Idaliina Friman uses her family’s past from Northern Finland to personalize her collection called Hetta. Unusual fabrics are used such as pet bottles as padding for her almost out-of-space looking clothes. They cover the entire body and even most of the face. The design refers to the very harsh Finnish winters and gave me the shivers just to look at the clothes!

Ines Kalliala’s collection is called Personal Uniform and as the name refers to: it consists mostly of personified suits for women and men. She uses ready-mades and vintage materials. Her motto is: “to mend and repair my favorite clothes”. Sustainability is the red thread throughout her work. The fishing net used as a veil was certainly an unusual ingredient, I thought.

Elnaz Gargari, Portraits of Absence, 2017

None of the designers lack imagination that’s for sure. Even if the clothes aren’t easy to wear, they’re certainly fun to look at and pushes one’s fantasy to its limits. It’s refreshing to see fashion as a means for esthetic communication about how our lives are shaped by the social and cultural environments we’ve grown up in.           

Like any contemporary work of art, these designs make us reflect about our stereotypes and pre-conceived ideas. This trend seems to be here to stay. Sustainability, cultural variations, personal identities and new ways of re-using old materials and fabrics is the new fashion, at least if we consider these young designers.

Kristine Schested-Blad, Ode to possibilities, 2018

This Nordic fashion might not be so rooted in Scandinavian traditions, but it’s certainly stained by a new international trend, coupled with a sustainable vision for our future world. A world that is in dire need of repair, a return to nature and to God, as this exhibition has taught me.

Anne Edelstam

Future Nordic Fashion

Prins Eugene, Waldmarsudde, Stockholm.

April 24 – Octobre 3, 2021

The French intellectual elite fallen into disgrace

In France, the intellectual socialist party members are referred to as gauche caviar – meaning a privileged group of champagne socialists. However, one after another, they have, like a house of cards, started to fall from their pedestal.

What led to this more or less untouchable intellectual elite’s downfall, that’s what we’ll explore in this article.

The MeToo movement in France didn’t make much of a buzz compared to some other western countries. Famous actresses such as Catherine Deneuve even defended the right for men to ‘flirt’ with women as they wished.

Many contemporary intellectuals stem from the 1968 sexual liberation movement. It was a veritable revolution against their parents’ strict Catholic upbringing which led to the contraceptive pill, abortion rights and free sex.

It was the time of Brigitte Bardot, Serge Gainsbourg, Simone de Beauvoir among others. Sexuality, incest and provocation were on the agenda. There were no taboos and no rules for what was allowed and even encouraged within certain circles.

Writers such as Gabriel Matzneff wrote openly about his love for minors. He was interviewed on French television in the 1980s where he talked and laughed about it. Nobody objected. Frédéric Mitterand, former Minister of Culture, wrote books about his relations with young boys in Thailand and nobody flinched. Despite being known for his sexual affairs, Dominique Strauss-Khan was hoping to become President of France when he was arrested for rape in the USA. His wife, internationally famous journalist Anne Sinclair, stood by him during his trial. Serge Gainsbourg’s song ‘lemon incest’ that he sang together with his daughter was popular despite its theme. A provocative video, with both of them laying together half naked on a mattress, spread widely. Nobody complained.

Incest hasn’t been forbidden and sex with minors was allowed as long as it was ‘consensual’. How can a minor, not yet developed sexually or otherwise be consenting? Isn’t that rather child molestation? Or is the family best preserved by hushing down such problems?  

Something has shifted thanks to the younger generation raising their voices. The bubble finally broke with Camille Kouchner’s book ‘La familia grande’ published in the beginning of this year. In the book, she denounced the sexual abuse of her twin brother during his teens by their stepfather, the political scientist, Olivier Duhamel. Her book blew the lid off an enormous social problem in France.

There was a huge reaction with many others coming forward to say that they too had been sexually abused as children. A group called Face à l’inceste – facing incest – has been formed. It affirms that at least one in ten have been abused within the family structure in France. Mostly girls and often by an uncle. The hashtag Metooinceste was coined.

At last, a new law has been voted in the French Assembly on March16, 2021, stipulating that sexual relations, between an adult and a minor under the age of 15 years old, would be punishable by law and in the case of incest it was established at the age of 18.

France has sadly been at the forefront on sexual abuses including numerous scandals among catholic priests abusing young boys and then covering up their deeds. It was then thought of as happening only within the seclusion of a Church that isn’t transparent and tend to cover up their traces. Not among prominent intellectual families who have often criticized the same Catholic Church…

It’s a paradox in a society with supposedly high values and it shows the importance of transparency and openness.  It’s time for such arrogant and abusive behaviors to stop! Women and children rights must be respected. 

For all those who have suffered, at last their voices are being heard: vive la justice! Long live justice!

Anne Edelstam