Urgent Museum Notice

Sarah Bernhardt

Black-and-white photo of a light-skinned adult woman with dark curls. Starring off-camera, she wears a large dark hat, a dark dress with long sleeves, and fur stole. Her mouth opens slightly, showing her top row of teeth, and she holds a bouquet, visible at the bottom of the frame.

Photo courtesy of George Grantham Bain Collection; Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

1844–1923

Her debut in Racine’s tragedy Iphigénie cemented her importance as a stage actress and launched what would become a 60-year career and a pan-European reputation as “the Divine Sarah.” While acting, Bernhardt began studying sculpture with Mathieu Meusnier and Emilio Franchesci and became passionately devoted to the art.

By 1874, she was exhibiting her work at the Paris Salon, which she continued to do until 1886. Exhibitions of the artist’s sculpture were held in London, New York, and Philadelphia. Bernhardt participated in the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.

Bernhardt excelled at modeling and shaping, and the majority of her sculptures are portrait busts, though she also made smaller objets de vertu (objects of virtue). Fifty of her artworks have been documented.

Passionate about all forms of art, Bernhardt also painted, designed dresses, directed a theater company, and supervised the sets and costumes for her productions.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Sarah Bernhardt
  • Birth

    Paris, 1844
  • Death

    Paris, 1923

Works by Sarah Bernhardt

Après la tempête (After the Storm)

Après la tempête (After the Storm) depicts a Breton peasant woman cradling the body of her grandson who had been caught in a fisherman’s nets. Sarah Bernhardt had seen this woman on the seashore and was moved by her story, which ended tragically with the death of the child. But in Bernhardt’s sculpture  the child’s right hand grips the woman’s garment,...

Large sculpture in white marble depicts a seated older woman cradling the body of a young boy whose limp body falls over her legs. The boy's legs are tangled in a fisherman's net while waves crash at the woman's feet.