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The demographics of the larger series

The demographics of the series as a whole: established artists, women, foreigners. The one thing all these artists have in common is that they exhibited at the Salon in the 1880s-1890s.

Like Artists at Home, Photographs of artists in their Paris studios (Archives of the American Art, Smithsonian Institution) shows Parisian artists in their ateliers in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.[1] “Parisian” is a good word to describe this selection because several of the artists presented were not Frenchmen: some were Americans (most notably John Singer Sargent, but also Walter Gay and George Peter Alexander Healy), one was Ukranian (Mihaly Munkácsy), and one Belgian (Alfred Stevens);[2] the rest were French.[3] Similarly to Artists at Home, which features mainly English and Scottish artists with only two foreigners (Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a Dutchman, and Joseph Edgar Boehm, an Austrian), Photographs of artists in their Paris studios presents a group of artists dominated by the French. However, whereas Artists at Home focuses exclusively on twenty-five male artists,[4] Photographs of artists in their Paris studios includes a photograph of one female artist, Louise Abbéma.

            Like Artists at Home, Photographs of artists in their Paris studios presents us with established artists. Most of them were chevaliers of the Legion d’Honneur, an award reserved for artists blessed by the establishment. Nearly all had exhibited at the Salon, the quintessential marker of artistic success as determined by l’Académie des Beaux Art in France. The same is true of Artists at Home: with only two exceptions (W. E. Gladstone, who was not even an artist, and G. A. Lawson), all artists in the series are either members or associates of the Royal Academy.

            Artists at Home and Photographs of artists in their Paris studios share many similarities, such as the representation of established artists, but also have important differences, which attest to the unique contexts of their creation. Chief among the dissimilarities is the preeminence of “Moorish themes” in Photographs of artists in their Paris studios.[5] No less important is that unlike Artists at Home, Photographs of artists in their Paris studios only features artists in studios — no living rooms or libraries serve as the setting for the French series, which largely seeks to capture authentic workspaces. The similarities of the two collections testify to the widespread worship of artists as celebrities in nineteenth-century Europe,[6] while the differences attest to the diverse artistic and cultural environments, in which these images were produced.


[1]  Photographs of artists in their Paris studios, 1880-1890, is a collection of photographs donated by the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art in 1971. As its title indicates, the collection spans two decades. With few exceptions, the dates of the photographs are an average — 1885. The photographs of Benjamin Constant and Walter Gay are dated to ca. 1890 and John Singer Sargent to 1884.

“Photographs of artists in their Paris studios, 1880-1890,” Archives of American Art, accessed November 8, 2016, http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/photographs-artists-their-paris-studios-10228.

[2] Ibid.; Oxford Art Online, s.v. “Sargent, John Singer, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T076043; “Gay, Walter,” http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T031085; “Healy, George Peter Alexander,” http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/benezit/B00085010; “Munkácsy, Mihaly,” http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/benezit/B00127687; “Stevens, Alfred,” http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/benezit/B00175760, accessed November 8, 2016.

[3] The nationality is unknown for the artist erroneously identified as George Adolphus Storey. In this period Storey was working in London, where he was photographed in his studio in 1884 for Artists at Home.

[4] F. G. Stephens and J. P. Mayall, Artists at Home (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1884).

[5] Ibid.

[6] The worship of artists as celebrities was also a powerful phenomenon in the United States. For more, see Sarah Burns, “The Price of Beauty: Art, Commerce, and the Late Nineteenth-century American Studio Interior,” in American Iconology: New Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature, edited by David C. Miller (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 209–38.

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