Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and Other French National Collections

Oil painting scene shows a man in a white Grecian robe with red cape, bronze shield, and bronze helmet standing among clouds with two black horses connected to a chariot in front of him. He reaches out to a pale-skinned nude woman and cherub with doves behind them.
Feb 24 to Jul 29, 2012

In keeping with its mission to rediscover and celebrate women artists of the past and demonstrate their continued relevance, NMWA presents Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and Other French National Collections. The exhibition features 77 paintings, prints, and sculptures dating from 1750 to 1850—many of which have never been seen outside of France.

To develop the exhibition, NMWA spent months scouring the collections of French museums and libraries to cull rarely-seen works by women artists. Royalists to Romantics showcases these exceptional works and reveals how the tumultuous period that saw the flowering of the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the terrors of the French revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon, and the restoration of the monarchy affected the lives and careers of women artists.

Featuring 35 artists, including Marguerite GérardAntoine Cecile Haudebourt-LescotAdélaïde Labille-Guillard, and Sophie Rude, the exhibition explores the political and social dynamics that shaped their world and influenced their work. Some of these artists flourished with support of such aristocratic patrons as Marie Antoinette, who not only appointed her favorite female artists Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun and Anne Vallayer-Coster to court, but advocated their acceptance into the Académie Royale de peinture et de sculpture.

The political upheavals of the French Revolution and the following decades brought a new set of challenges for women artists. Royalists to Romantics explores the complex ways that women negotiated their cultural positions and marketed their reputations in France’s shifting social, political and artistic environment.

A portait of a woman dressed in fine ivory silks sitting at a writing desk grasping a feather quill pen in her right hand. She gazes out towards the viewer and her skin is a pale, pinkish hue, with a baroque hairstyle and tulle bonnet.

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Portrait of a Woman, 1787, Musée des beaux-arts, Quimper

Exhibition Sponsors

Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and other French National Collections has been organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., with logistical support from sVo Art, Versailles.

The exhibition is made possible by the Annenberg Foundation, the Florence Gould Foundation, Hermès, Teresa L. and Joe R. Long, and Jacqueline Badger Mars, with additional funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, an Anonymous Donor, the Robert Lehman Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Further support is provided by Air France and Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square.

  • Art Works
  • Air France
  • Sofitel