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Louise Abbéma (30 Oct. 1853 – 10 July 1927); French painter, sculptor, and designer of the Belle Époque.
Born in Étampes, Essonne into a wealthy Parisian family, who were well connected in the local artistic community. She began painting in her early teens, and studied under such notables of the period as Charles Joshua Chaplin, Jean-Jacques Henner and Carolus-Duran. She first received recognition for her work at age 23 when she painted a portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, her lifelong friend and possibly her lover.
She went on to paint portraits of other contemporary notables, and also painted panels and murals which adorned the Paris Town Hall, the Paris Opera House, numerous theatres including the "Theatre Sarah Bernhardt", and the "Palace of the Colonial Governor" at Dakar, Senegal. She had an academic and impressionistic style, painting with light and rapid brushstrokes.
....Abbéma was also an accomplished printmaker, sculptor, and designer, as well as a writer who made regular contributions to the journals Gazette des Beaux-Arts and L'Art. She also illustrated several books, including la mer, René Maizeroy....
As educational opportunities were made more available in the 19th century, women artists became part of professional enterprises, including founding their own art associations. Artwork made by women was considered to be inferior, and to help overcome that stereotype women became "increasingly vocal and confident" in promoting women's work, and thus became part of the emerging image of the educated, modern and freer "New Woman". Artists then, "played crucial roles in representing the New Woman, both by drawing images of the icon and exemplifying this emerging type through their own lives," including Abbéma who created androgynous self-portraits to "link intellectual life through emphasis on ocularity". Many other portraits included andorgynously dressed women, and women participating in intellectual...