While a handful of American women carved out successful careers as professional artists during the 19th century, it wasn’t until the 20th century that more women artists began to enjoy the same opportunity and recognition as their male counterparts. Yet, parity was not easily won. It took a new wave of artistic independence, suffrage, social and sexual upheaval, hard-won battles against opinionated critics and a conservative art establishment, and a preoccupation with a world war to clear the way for acceptance, admiration, and ultimately, acclaim. Women artists’ battle for parity is still being waged today, but the first skirmishes after the turn of the 20th century firmly set its course.
In its booth at The Art Show 2019, Hirschl & Adler Galleries will document the rise of the female artist in America from 1900 to 1950. Three generations of women born between 1850 and 1920 (the so-called "first wave") were well positioned to reap the benefits of the era’s changing mores and attitudes, from the “old guard” of Mary Cassatt to avant-garde cubist Suzy Morris Frelinghuysen. The Hirschl & Adler stand will endeavor to tell the story of women artists’ rise to equanimity over the first 50 years of the 20th century.
Hirschl & Adler’s survey will commence with a figural work by an American stalwart of the Gilded Age, Mary Cassatt. Cassatt wholeheartedly embracing the Impressionist style during her years in Paris. Her work may be firmly grounded in the aesthetics and sensibilities of the late 19th century, but she was thoroughly modern in her beliefs. Cassatt was an avowed Socialist, rallied for woman’s suffrage, and was devastated by what she called the “moral disintegration” of Europe in the aftermath of the First World War.
If Cassatt turned to creating art after growing up in a family of worldly privilege, opera soprano Suzy Frelinghuysen turned to painting by marriage. In 1935, she married George L. K. Morris, art collector, abstract artist, and critic. With her husband’s encouragement, Frelinghuysen adopted cubism and, over the next three decades, created brilliant compositions in the milieu of Picasso, Braque, and Leger, which were exhibited at such venues as American Abstract Artists at the Squibb Gallery in New York.
Women artists made great strides during the first decades of the 20th century in the face of complex challenges, both in the art world and in the socio-political climate largely defined by two world wars and a paralyzing depression. At The Art Show 2019, Hirschl & Adler will show how women, over three generations, gradually shed the restraints of a conservative and traditional male-oriented art establishment, thus enabling the free expression of their unique interpretations of subjects, themes, and aesthetics.