Women artists of the 19th century

The Middle Floor of the National Museum in Stockholm, has art and design objects from 1800 to the present day. Included are a number of portraits of female artists. Not that you’d know that they were artists from the paintings. Male artists would never include anything that could indicate they were artists.

They would, more often than not, be holding a book. This indicated that they were intellectual. But as for paint brushes, paints and easels there were none.

One of these artists was Julia Beck (1853-1935).

In the portrait above, Julia is shown as a fashionable Parisian. It was painted by Richard Bergh (1858-1919). She looks out at the viewer as if she wants the process of sitting to end so she can get back to work.

Julia, born in Stockholm, moved to France early on in her career and never really left. While she supported herself, like many other artists, painting portraits, her true love came from Impressionist landscapes.

The painting below is called The Last Ray of Sunshine (1888). Julia painted it a year before Claude Monet started his water lily thing. And it was ten years before he started with the ones from Giverny which we saw back in 2016.

Julia never married. Too many of her fellow female artists had given up the paint brush once marriage was undertaken. She was already married. To her art.

I found an excellent blog post about Julia Beck. For a more detailed biography, click here.

Another female artist, painted by Richard Bergh, was Eva Bonnier (1857-1909).

Eva was born in Stockholm into the wealthy publishing family of Albert and Betty Bonnier. She studied art under August Malmström, at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. Like Julia, she went to France but, unlike Julia, she didn’t stay.

She painted a lot of portraits of her sister-in-law Lisen as a convalescent. She was very talented and quite prolific, producing portraits and exhibiting in such far flung places as Chicago. Then, in 1900, she stopped painting and devoted her life to philanthropic work.

Among other things, she created a foundation responsible for the beautification of Stockholm. This foundation produced (or caused to be produced) many public artworks throughout the city. It’s a testament to Eva that the foundation remains active today.

Sadly, in 1909 and suffering from depression, she took her own life, falling out of a Copenhagen hotel window.

They were two amazing Swedish women.

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