Her Paris in Our Denver


Sydney Hodgson | @SydneyLHodgson

I set out alone from my apartment, in my uniform of black and my beloved vintage denim jacket just as I has done so many times in the  6ème arrondissement. My destination: the Denver Art Museum, to see Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism.

Cecilia Beaux, Ernesta (Child with Nurse), 1894. Oil paint on canvas. PC: DAM website. 

Cecilia Beaux, Ernesta (Child with Nurse), 1894. Oil paint on canvas. PC: DAM website. 

The name of this exhibit instantly caught my attention. Having studied in Paris during school, I am uniquely familiar with what modern life for women is like in the City of Lights. And as any woman who has spent substantial time alone in Paris can attest, it is a challenging and achingly beautiful city encompassing a reality much less gentle than is made out to be in the countless glamorized interpretations. No doubt, women artists trying to make their way there in a notably male industry at its prime would have stories to tell.

The exhibit features the works of female artists who came from all over the world to study in Paris from 1850-1900. Over 80 paintings by 37 female artists line the walls. At the time, Paris was a destination for creatives, and the featured artists came there from all across Europe and North America to build their careers. The exhibit is divided by subject: portrait, fashion and beauty, childhood, landscape and history. True to the impressionist style, the paintings are soft and often dreamlike. But what is most striking about the exhibit is the stories behind the paintings.

The Paris these women experienced was far different from the Paris of today, and society and the art world were not ready for their powerful collective presence. The period was one of major social and artistic change. Until the late 1900s women were not allowed to attend the École des Beaux-Arts (the School of Fine Arts), which was one of the most influential art institutions of the time, so they created their own organizations, exhibited independently, and developed alternative ways to study and create. These women banded together and created opportunity for themselves when there was none, and challenged both the landscape and technique of traditional art in the process.

Berthe Morisot (French, 1841-1895), The Lesson in the Garden, 1886. PC: DAM. 

Berthe Morisot (French, 1841-1895), The Lesson in the Garden, 1886. PC: DAM. 


In a press release about the exhibit, Angela Daneo, curator of painting and sculpture at the DAM explained, “The works on display in Her Paris are powerful examples of the technical and stylistic achievements of these women who had to overcome gender-based limitations that prevented their full participation in the artistic community, and a societal reluctance to accept their professional ambitions. This is not an exhibit about recreational endeavors, but about art as a professional pursuit, a driving passion to which these notable artists devoted their life.”

For the past several months, tickets for this special exhibit have sold out, which opened at the Denver Art museum in October. Get there soon, because it’s final day is January 14th.


LifestyleVirginia Santy