Publication date:10 September 2013
Length of book:120 pages
PublisherThe Fralin Museum of Art, University of Virginia
Émilie Charmy (1878–1974) charted a remarkable course in the world of French modern art in the first half of the twentieth century. Her earliest works, executed around 1900, explored the legacy of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting. An engagement with the avant-garde circle of Fauve painters defined her art in the years leading up to the First World War. In the ensuing interwar period, Charmy found her mature style, characterized by optical realism, an adherence to the traditional genres of portraiture, the nude, landscape, and still life, and a modernist notion of direct, vigorous paint application as a mark of artistic sincerity. This attitude found its ultimate expression in numerous renderings of the female nude, which, by virtue of Charmy’s melding of ostensibly feminine and masculine qualities, charm and seductiveness on the one hand and power and firmness on the other, confounded prevailing expectations about the nature of women’s art. These images retain their provocative force today.
This publication accompanies the first U.S. retrospective of the painting of Émilie Charmy, which is organized by the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. Exhibition curator Matthew Affron surveys key phases of Charmy’s artistic career in relation to major issues in modern French painting of her era. Sarah Betzer examines two principal subjects of Charmy’s early work, the nude and the bourgeois interior, as evidence of an ambitious dialogue with avant-garde precedent. Rita Felski considers Charmy in light of recent feminist approaches to the study of the role women creators played in defining modernism.