This exhibition explores the artistic networks of women artists exhibiting, studying, and teaching at PAFA from its founding in 1805 to the end of World War II.
PAFA has the remarkable distinction of actively promoting women artists since its first annual exhibition in 1811. At the turn of the 20th century Cecilia Beaux (1855–1942), the first full-time female professor of painting at PAFA, expressed the hope that the hour was near “when the term ‘Women in Art’ will be as strange-sounding a topic as ‘Men in Art’ would be now.” While this quote reveals much about the exciting developments of the professional ambitions and accomplishment of women artists in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, Beaux’s quote, and indeed her very artistic reputation—nowhere near as well-known as her contemporary and rival Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)—reveal how far scholarship has yet to advance in the study of American women artists. This exhibition and its accompanying catalog will introduce PAFA’s audiences to the networks of talented women artists and will include more than 80 works of art by more than 50 women artists working professionally in the American art world from PAFA’s founding in 1805 to the end of World War II.
The majority of the work will be from PAFA’s remarkable permanent collection, including many recent acquisitions, which has been lauded by The New York Times and other notable publications for its pioneering leadership in collecting art by women. Complementing works from the permanent collection will be a selection of loans from local private and institutional collections. Many works are by women who were renowned in their time, but have since been supplanted by better-known male colleagues. A significant goal of this exhibition is to inspire a new generation of visitors, scholars, and collectors to appreciate women artists. PAFA is particularly proud to feature paintings and sculptures by and Laura Wheeler Waring (1887–1948) and May Howard Jackson (1877–1931), two of the first African American women to study at PAFA, and whose works have recently entered the permanent collection.