Sisters of the Brush

Women`s Artistic Culture in Late Nineteenth-Century Paris

Tamar Garb

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April 27, 1994
216 pages, 7 1/2 x 10
62 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300059038
Cloth

The Union of Women Painters and Sculptors was founded in Paris in 1881 to represent the interests of women artists and to facilitate the exhibition of their work. This lively and informative book traces the history of the first fifteen years of the organization and places it in the contexts of the Paris art world and the development of feminism in the late nineteenth century.

Tamar Garb explores how the Union campaigned to have women artists written about in the press and admitted to the Salon jury and into the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts and describes how the organization's leaders took their campaigns into the French parliament itself. Although the women of the Union were often quite conservative politically, socially, and stylistically, says Garb, they believed that women had a special gift that would enhance France's cultural reputation and maintain the uplifting moral-cultural position that seemed in jeopardy at the turn of the century. Focusing on the developments that made the prominence of the organization possible, Garb discusses the growth of the women's movement, educational reforms, institutional changes in the art world, and critical debates and contemporary scientific thought. She examines contemporary perceptions of both art and femininity, showing how the understanding of one affected the image of the other.

This book reverses conventional accounts of late nineteenth-century French art, offering a new picture of the Paris art world from the point of view of a group of women who were marginalized by its dominant institutions.

Tamar Garb teaches in the department of art history at University College, London.

"The whole is a tour de force—utterly absorbing and highly readable. . . . An immaculately documented, dense and detailed history which will provide an invaluable resource for teaching and further academic study. . . . Sisters of the Brush is like dynamite to the dreary chain of dead white males along which the study of French art has been forged for so long."—Deborah Cherry, Women's Art Magazine

"In its wide-ranging examination of contemporary perceptions of art and femininity and, moreover, in its articulation of their intersection on the painted and critical canvas, Sisters of the Brush reaches far beyond the conventional aesthetic judgments and heroic narratives of modernism to restructure our view of the Paris art world in the late nineteenth century from its margins."—Mary Tomkins Lewis, Art Journal

"Superbly documented and well written, this book will be immensely valuable to both undergraduates and faculty. It examines in depth what has before been given only chapter-length treatment. Highly recommended."—Choice

"The volume is well-documented with late nineteenth-century journalism, art criticism, history, legislature, scientific, and pseudo-scientific theory. . . . We can learn much from this book."—Adelia Williams, French Review

"Tamar Garb's Sisters of the Brush is refreshingly readable, well-researched analysis of the French Union of Women Painters and Sculptors from 1881-1896. . . . Garb is consistently clear in her insistence on the complexity of the role and position of women within the history of art. Her study stands in stark (and, in my view, successful) opposition to the linear image of modernity favored by dominant male art historians such as Alfred Barr and John Rewald, who describe the same period as one of steady progress to the apex of art in modernism."—Kathleen Fluegel, Signs

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