‘Women Impressionists’ finally shown together

It wasn’t easy being a female American artist in the 19th century, but Mary Stevenson Cassatt did succeed in making her mark in the art capital of the world at the time.

She made a near-impossible transition from Pennsylvania to Paris salons in the 1870s, with a series of eight annual exhibits that introduced and defied impressionism. Her mentors and future fellow exhibitors included Degas and Pissarro.

Even today, she and other women painters of the era are far less known than Manet, Monet and Renoir. That’s what makes San Francisco’s Legion of Honor’s “Women Impressionists,” opening Saturday, of special interest. The exhibit, with variety and appealing quality, features some 160 works from museums and private collections in Europe and the United States.

Besides Cassatt, the show features French artists Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), Eva Gonzales (1849-1883) and Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916).

All four were accepted, with some reluctance, in the revolutionary movement named after Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise.” Their works are characterized by visible brush strokes, emphasis on light and movement, ordinary subject matters and unusual angles.

Morisot’s elegant brush stroke prompted one critic to call her “the most Impressionistic of the impressionists;” she was the only woman to exhibit in the first impressionist exhibition, and in each of the next seven.

Gonzales, a student of Manet, produced excellent paintings, although relative few, due to her death at age 34. Bracquemond also exhibited with the impressionists, but later abandoned painting.

In spite of their presence “in the beginning,” the four subsequently received relatively few opportunities to exhibit. This show, coming from Frankfurt and with its only U.S. viewing here in The City, makes up for lost time. It also represents the first opportunity to see the work of these women artists side by side.

Besides displaying art, the exhibit also provides an insight into the lives of the artists. They and other women living in Paris in the late 19th century were subject to a strict code of social rules that are difficult to imagine today (outside Saudi Arabia).

An unmarried woman, for example, could not leave her home without a chaperone, nor could she frequent a cafe or the theater by herself. However, women were encouraged to have interest in the decorative arts, music or painting — pursuits that could be practiced at home or in the company of other women.

The road from there to rubbing shoulders with the giants of impressionists was rocky indeed, making the results displayed in this show all the more … impressive.

IF YOU GO

Women Impressionists

Where: Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street, San Francisco

When: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; closed Mondays; exhibit closes Sept. 21

Tickets: $11 to $15; free for children 12 and under; advance tickets recommended

Contact: (866) 912-6326; www.museumtix.com; www.famsf.org/legion/

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

An empty space where a Shared Spaces parklet once stood outside Aquitaine Wine Bistro on Church Street on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. The parklet was recently destroyed in a car crash. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Cars and parklets don’t mix: SF searches for solutions in wake of accidents

Andrew Fidelman got the call in the middle of the night from… Continue reading

Supervisor Dean Preston speaks about rent relief at a meeting of Faith in Action, a nonprofit serving low-income residents. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
How to apply for post-pandemic rent relief in San Francisco and California

Reyna Aguilar has amassed $20,000 in rent debt since losing her restaurant… Continue reading

Transit-only lanes on Mission Street have reduced travel times by 20 percent during the pandemic, transit officials say. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Pandemic experiments morph into long-term solutions for SF transit agency

The streets of San Francisco became real-time laboratories for The City’s public… Continue reading

NO CONNECTION TO SERVER:
Unable to connect to GPS server ‘blackpress.newsengin.com’
Debate reignites over San Francisco’s first public bank

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum was building for San Francisco to… Continue reading

Owners of Levi’s Plaza on The Embarcadero say gas boilers on the property will be replaced by electric and solar sources in the next few years. (Shutterstock)
Big plans for clean power at Levi’s Plaza

Transition to net zero carbon in step with S.F.’s environmental goals

Most Read