The exhibition and accompanying scholarly publication provide the first extensive study dedicated to all the works in the Nationalgalerie produced by women painters and sculptors before 1919. It is a revision of the museum’s collections viewed under the important aspect of current discourse about equal rights.
By the beginning of the 19th century, a few women had succeeded in building up exceptional careers within a predominantly male art establishment. However, by mid-century restrictions had intensified for women artists and they were often denied access to art academies, fellowships and grants, as well as to important commissions. In their “fight for visibility”, women artists engaged with artists’ associations, where they fought for possibilities to exhibit and also increasingly for the attention of important supporters as well as the prestigious commissions and purchases associated with them.
The exhibition shows more than 60 paintings and sculptural works in the collection created over a 140-year period by women artists, all of which date before 1919. Some of the works have been an integral part of the permanent exhibition for decades: paintings by Caroline Bardua, Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann and Sabine Lepsius, for instance. Others will be shown at the Alte Nationalgalerie again after years of slumbering in storage, including works by Friederike O’Connell and Paula Monjé, both of whom were portraitists and history painters.
A great many of these works have never been on view in the Museumsinsel exhibition spaces. Moreover, numerous once successful women artists have fallen into oblivion over time, such as the Norwegian sculptor Ambrosia Tønnesen; the Salon painter Vilma Parlaghy, who was also successful in the USA; and Natalia Goncharova, a pioneer of the Russian avant-garde. In their diversity, these women artists made an essential contribution to the art of their times.
The restoration of numerous works was made possible by the generous support of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation.
A richly illustrated, accompanying exhibition and collection catalogue, which includes extensive biographies of the women artists represented, is published by the Reimer Verlag in German and English editions.
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