Feminist Art History can find it’s origins in French artists. In the annals of French art history, the female body once stood as a restricted canvas for women artists. Until the late 19th century, women were barred from studying live nude models in public institutions, reflecting societal norms that discouraged them from even contemplating their own bodies. However, the rise of modern art saw a radical shift in the representation of the female form, becoming a battleground for male artists vying for avant-garde supremacy.
Against this backdrop, courageous artists like Suzanne Valadon, Émilie Charmy, and Marie Vassilieff emerged as pioneers, challenging conventions surrounding the nude and boldly reversing gender roles. Despite facing ad hominem attacks, critical hostility, and censorship, these women painted the nude form without inhibition, reshaping artistic norms.
Stylistically unique, each artist infused her work with a personal perspective on gender, sexuality, and self-expression. Venturing into uncharted territory for female artists, they explored the male body, the lesbian nude, and the rarely tackled nude self-portrait. This last genre, a groundbreaking exploration well before the emergence of feminist and gender studies, allowed these artists to express self-awareness and introduce female sexuality through their canvases. Pleasure in Painting sheds light on the transformative contributions of Valadon, Charmy, and Vassilieff, artists who have long been marginalized in the history of modernism.
Their forays into the representation of the nude shattered societal norms, paving the way for a feminist art history that continues to challenge and redefine our understanding of gender, identity, and artistic expression.
By Lauren Jimerson
This book examines nudes by three women: Suzanne Valadon, Émilie Charmy and Marie Vassilieff. Working in avant-garde Paris, these artists pioneered modern body imagery, expressing female …