3 December 2020, 7 – 8.15pm BST, Online

This event will take a fresh look at women as collectors, patrons, exhibition organisers and museum founders in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Until recently, women’s contributions in these areas has been undervalued, not keeping up with the attention and critical recognition that women artists have received.  Our three speakers will consider the achievements of some extraordinary and fascinating women in the art world whose accomplishments are less well known than their male counterparts of the period, though are equally significant.

The event will be hosted by Sandi Toksvig and will feature three, fifteen-minute talks by the speakers followed by a panel discussion. Presentations will include the following:

Meaghan Clarke, Senior Lecturer in Art History, University of Sussex
While women are invariably absent in institutional histories of this period, the elusive records of temporary exhibitions indicate that women were active cultural agents. Fair Women was the historical equivalent of a ‘blockbuster’ exhibition. Organised by a committee of women, this exhibition of portraits of women and decorative objects opened in 1894 to great fanfare at the Grafton Galleries in London. It coincided with the emergence of the independent New Woman in novels, plays and the press. In looking nostalgically back to previous models of female behaviour, the exhibition has been seen as a ‘slap in the face’ for the New Woman. However, on closer examination Fair Women complicated assumptions about the representation of women and the superficiality of female collectors and art patrons. Women were celebrated for their ‘wit and intellect’, and the show revealed an important network of collectors, patrons and ‘New’ women.

Shona Kallestrup, Associate Lecturer, School of Art History, University of St Andrews
The charismatic Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938) was an amateur artist, writer and collector of unusual tastes. Arriving in Romania in 1893, this British-born princess acted as a conduit for transnational artistic exchange, aligning herself with the breakaway Bucharest group ‘Artistic Youth’ and cultivating an international network of contacts that included the American dancer Loïe Fuller with whom she made a ballet and film. With her talent for public media strategy, Marie crafted a vision of monarchy which at times shocked her British relatives, but placed her at the heart of the Romanian national ideal. Central to her success was the distinctive visual culture she curated in a series of extraordinary palace interiors filled with collections of Art Nouveau, Byzantine and peasant art. Widely disseminated as photographs and postcards, these served as powerful performative settings for Marie to act out her successive roles as a Princesse Lointaine, wartime saviour and ‘Mother of all the Romanians’.

Elizabeth Emery, Professor of French, Dept of World Languages and Cultures, Montclair State University
The Musée d’Ennery, the first free public museum of Asian art in Paris (opened in 1908), owes its existence to a young woman, Clémence Lecarpentier (1823-1898), who began collecting small sculpted objects related to Far Eastern mythology in the 1840s. At her death in 1898, she bequeathed her collection, which had grown to nearly 7,000 objects to the French state, along with the house whose galleries she had designed to showcase it. Despite the fact that she was praised by contemporaries for her pioneering work as a collector of Far Eastern sculpted and ceramic objects, and despite the existence of archives that clearly document her fifty-year engagement with the collection, scholars continue to present this remarkable house museum either as the work of her wealthy husband, playwright Adolphe d’Ennery, or as a joint venture. The elision of Clémence Lecarpentier Desgranges d’Ennery’s agency from cultural memory derives from complicated social factors, among them women’s legal status in France, nationalism, classism, and a sexism that persists in marketing materials that characterize the collection as a “jewel box,” an “opulent time capsule,” or as a “cabinet of curiosity.”

The panel discussion will be moderated by Thomas Stammers, Associate Professor (Modern European Cultural History) in the Department of History, Durham University.

Join us online for this FREE event, book your ticket via Eventbrite.