Thursday, March 8, 2018

"In those days women strove to do and dare..."

"In those days women strove to do and dare what their fathers and brothers and husbands were doing, and many a stirring speech delivered in the Assembly or at the great political debate clubs had been born in the brain of a woman. They did not content themselves with a passive part, they were full of ardor, sinking individual aims and affections in the general conflict, and, ready to sacrifice all for their cause; they rushed into the battle of the nation impetuously and eagerly, and claimed the privilege of fighting for their country side by side with men. Olympe de Gouges expressed the general feeling of her sex when she said: 'Women have as good a right to mount the tribune as they have to ascend the scaffold.'"
 --Jeannette Van Alstine

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A self-portrait of Rose-Adélaïde Ducreux, 1791

A self-portrait of Rose-Adélaïde Ducreux, 1791

Rose-Adélaïde Ducreux (1761-1802) was the daughter of painter Joseph Ducreaux, best known for his experimental expression portraits and his royal portraits of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. Rose-Adélaïde studied painting with her father and became an established painter in her own right in her 20s, making her first exhibition in 1786. She and her father debuted together at the Louvre Salon in 1791; Rose-Adélaïde's submission was the above self-portrait. Over the next 15 years, Rose-Adélaïde exhibited numerous portraits and self-portraits; however, much of her work has become untraceable over the years. Some of her now-known work had been previously attributed to other painters, including Jacques-Louis David, Antoine Vestier, and Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun. She was active from 1785 until her death from yellow fever or typhoid fever in 1802.

Monday, March 5, 2018

7 Books about 18th-Century Women in STEM Fields

Note: Although health/medicine is not traditionally considered STEM, I've decided to include medicine for the purposes of this list.

7 Books about 18th-Century Women in STEM Fields

The following women lived in a time when women were greatly discouraged and sometimes even legally barred from participating professionally in fields such as math, science, and medicine; despite these limitations, the women in this list dedicated their careers or even their entire lives to contributing--sometimes profoundly--to their respective fields.

Émilie du Châtelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment by Judith P. Zinsser
  • Émilie du Châtelet was a French mathematician and physicist who is best known for her opus Institutions de Physique and her translation of Isaac Newton's Principia, which contained her personal commentary that is now regarded as a profound contribution to Newtonian mechanics. 

Jane Colden: America's First Woman Botanist by Paula Ivaska Robbins
  •  Jane Colden was an American botanist who, though her work was never published in contemporary botany journals, spent years analyzing, illustrating and cataloguing American flora, resulting in an extensive, 340-entry manuscript.

The Lady Anatomist: The Life and Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini by Rebecca Messbarger
  • Anna Morandi Manzolini was an Italian anatomist, anatomical wax modeler and professor of anatomy whose detailed and accurate models and lectures on anatomy and dissection were highly regarded by physicians and students of anatomy throughout Europe.

Laura Bassi and Science in 18th Century Europe: The Extraordinary Life and Role of Italy's Pioneering Female Professor by Monique Frize
  • Laura Bassi was an Italian physicist and professor whose profound contributions to the study of physics in Europe resulted in academic appointments and a professorship at the University of Bologna, where she gave public lectures and used her professorship salary to pay for experimental research in physics and electricity.

The Quiet Revolution of Caroline Herschel: The Lost Heroine of Astronomy by Emily Winterburn
  •  Caroline Herschel was a German astronomer whose decades of work alongside her brother William Hersche resulted in the personal discovery of multiple comets, several important astronomical publications, and high honors such as the Royal Astronomical Society's Gold Medal.

The King's Midwife: A History and Mystery of Madame du Coudray by Nina Rattner Gelbart
  • Angélique du Coudray was a French midwife who is best known for her decades of work in advancing broader knowledge of proper prenatal care, infant delivery, and postnatal care throughout France; given a royal commission, she traveled throughout the country instructing both midwives and male physicians through her lectures and the first known life-size model of pregnant woman's reproductive system.

The World of Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Mathematician of God by Massimo Mazzotti
  • Maria Gaetana Agnesi was an Italian mathematician and professor who became the first woman to ever publish a mathematics handbook, which focused on differential and integral calculus, including her commentary on a mathematical curve which is known today as the Witch of Agnesi.  

Saturday, March 3, 2018

On a LADY's WRITING by Anna Laetitia Barbauld


HER even lines her steady temper show;
Neat as her dress, and polish'd as her brow;
Strong as her judgment, easy as her air;
Correct though free, and regular though fair:
And the same graces o'er her pen preside
That form her manners and her footsteps guide. 

Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825); 
text via the Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive/Poems. London: printed for Joseph Johnson, 1773.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A portrait of painter Adélaïde Binart by Marie Bouliard

A portrait of painter Adélaïde Binart by Marie Bouliard, 1796.

Adélaïde Binart (1769-1832) was a painter who was best known for her portraiture. Little is known about her early life, but in 1794 she married Alexandre Lenoir (best known for his tireless work in saving historical monuments and art during the French Revolution) and one year later, she made her debut with a work displayed at the Salon of 1795. She was active until at least 1817, and died in Paris in 1832.

This above portrait was done by fellow artist Marie Bouliard (1763-1825).

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Women's History Month: 6 Books about Women Artists in the 18th-Century

Continuing last year's tradition, in honor of Women's History Month, I will be posting (almost) every day in March about something related to women's history, in particular women's history related to the 18th century and 18th-19th century France. I hope that there will be something for everyone this month--please enjoy!

6 (More) Books about Women Artists in the 18th-Century 

The 18th-century saw a significant rise in women artists who were--not always without contention--becoming more prominent in both artistic, social and even political circles. From royal portraitists to prolific still-life painters, 18th-century women artists left an undeniable mark on the era. The following are 6 (more) books about women artists in the 18th century to read and enjoy!

Eighteenth Century Women Artists: Their Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs by Caroline Chapman

Miss Angel: The Art and World of Angelica Kauffman, Eighteenth-Century Icon by Angelica Goodden

Women Artists of the Eighteenth Century in France by Sara Gibbs Boush

Defiance: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Anne Barnard
by Stephen Taylor

The Exceptional Woman: Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art by Mary D. Sheriff

Marguerite Gérard, 1761-1837 by Sally Wells-Robertson

For even more books, check out last year's list of 8 books related to 18th-century women artists.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: Robert Doisneau: The Vogue Years by Robert Doisneau

© Robert Doisneau: The Vogue Years, Flammarion 2017

Robert Doisneau: The Vogue Years by Robert Doisneau with a foreword by Edmonde Charles-Roux is a collection of photography taken by Doisneau during the years he worked for Vogue Paris. In addition to the photographs he took especially for the magazine, the book features photographs taken by Doisneau in between the fashion shoots and excursion to society balls; these photographs, some well known and others which will be new to many readers, are "pure" Doisneau: those humanist street scenes that capture the vibrancy of life in post-war France.  

Robert Doisneau is best known for his humanist-style street photography which captured--as Doisneau once put it himself--life not as it is, but life as he would like it to be. Yet despite Doisneau's lengthy career and popularity which has extended well after his passing in 1992, there are few who are aware of Doisneau's lengthy--and surprising--career working for Vogue Paris. 

A fashion magazine is hardly the type of publication that comes to mind when one thinks of Doisneau's approach to photography; yet from 1948 to 1952, Doisneau worked for Vogue, photographing not just fashion models in the studio, but social events held by the brightest stars of European society, including fabulous balls and grand weddings. 

Doisneau's "Vogue" work can be divided into three components: photographing the cultural life of France with photographs of cultural icons and even up-and-comers like a young Brigitte Bardot; studio portraits; and photos taken on the scene of high society events. Of the three Vogue components, it is the studio portraits which feel most at odds with Doisneau's personal style, and Doisneau would write several decades later that he sometimes concealed his "indifference" towards these sessions by playing with elements like rain or snow machines. And indeed, one of the most appealing fashion studio shots in the book features a model surrounded by thick, artificial snow,  no doubt ordered by Doisneau.

 Mademoiselle d’Origny becomes Viscountess d’Harcourt, 1952
© Atelier Robert Doisneau, from Robert Doisneau: The Vogue Years (Flammarion 2017)

Robert Doisneau: The Vogue Years also features many photographs from the high society events which Vogue sent Doisneau into, ranging from costume balls to grand spectacle weddings to the personal grand homes of counts and countesses. Although these photographs are set in a world of privilege and luxury, Doisneau's approach behind the camera at extravagant balls and impossibly lavish weddings differed very little from his approach to fish-sellers and construction workers on the streets of ordinary France. And through his approach, Doisneau was able to capture moments encompassing the same range of everyday vibrancy as his everyday subjects--it is merely the backdrop that differentiates them. Guests enjoying conversation at dinner over drinks and dishes; children sitting, perhaps bored and impatient, in the waning hours of a costume ball; dancers laughing gaily as they intertwine in couture clothing.

Finally, the book moves into Doisneau's photographs of French cultural life which blossomed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These photographs are some of the most compelling in the book and feature intimate, candid looks at life behind the scenes at theater houses, dance studios, and into the lives of emerging cultural icons.

Flammarion has wisely chosen to use open spine Swiss binding (which allows you to lay both pages flat) for this book and it's a decision I wish more publishers would make, as it makes it much easier to view the photographs--printed, as always with this publisher, with excellent quality--as they should be seen.

I recommend Robert Doisneau: The Vogue Years for anyone with an interest in Doisneau's work, humanist photography, or French cultural history. 

  [A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher]