Elizabeth Nourse graduated from the School of Design of the University of Cincinnati in 1880, went to Paris in 1887 when she was twenty-eight years old, and lived there until her death in 1938. During her career she achieved all the honors to which an expatriate artist could aspire.
|Elizabeth Nourse, Self-Portrait, 1892|
Societe Nationale des Artistes Francais (hereafter the Old Salon). Nourse showed her work in the Old Salon for two years until the New Salon was formed. The concept of the commercial gallery was very new then so exposure at the Salon provided thousands of artists from all over the world their best opportunity to be noticed by important people—art critics, dealers, collectors—and gave them the experience of being compared with the leading contemporary artists. The exhibition was juried by famous artists and their acceptance of an art work gave it the guarantee of quality that collectors
and museum curators required to make their purchases.
|Elizabeth Nourse . Head of a Girl, 1882|
|Elizabeth Nourse . Les Volets Clos|
Nourse's career parallels that of other expatriate artists of the pre-World War I period, but certain aspects of it are unique. With Mary Cassatt and Cecilia Beaux, she was one of the few women painters to achieve international recognition for her work and, like them, faced certain obstacles that male artists did not encounter. She first had to prove that she was a serious professional since most women painters eventually marry or become teachers and fail to produce a significant body of work.
To acquire professional status she had to be recognized by the all male juries of the Salons and
international exhibitions and to be favorably reviewed by the art critics, who also were mostly men. As a Victorian lady she could not easily advance her career by forming friendships in these groups, as a male artist could. The social interchange of the cafe, so much a part of the artistic life of Paris in her day, was denied her.
|Elizabeth Nourse . The Little Sister, 1902|
Another problem women artists share is that their work has never commanded the market as has that of male artists since it is thought that they are not serious professionals. This means that their paintings tend to be found one to a collector making them difficult to evaluate, and that they have rarely been the subject of one-person exhibitions and catalogs that would bring their work to public notice.
Next: Elizabeth's Training
* in the Queen City Heritage magazine, Winter 1931 edition