Laura Muntz Lyall is regarded today as an “example of achievement in a male-dominated field and as a champion of womanhood within the confines of an era”. Her work The Watcher was included in 150 years 150 works, an on-line exhibition by Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) as representative of her era. Her painting A Daffodil was featured at the National Gallery of Canada in 2021. Her work is also on view in the Gallery’s exhibition Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons, which will be shown in Ottawa from January to June 2022.
In Summer’s Day, two ladies done up in the latest fashions are pictured seated in a rowboat floating in a lake of shimmering dabs of green and blue. The paintings was made at the Bois de Boulogne, a public park in the 16th arrondissement in Paris, a favorite place of Morisot’s, and close to her apartment and studio.
One woman, clad in a bright blue jacket and a straw bonnet, looks out toward the water. The other, adorned in a glimmering ensemble of lavenders and whites, sits with her hands clasped, a parasol on her lap, and glances out from the canvas toward the viewer. The image has a feeling of unposed spontaneity, and despite the picturesque setting, there’s a slightly anxious sense to Morisot’s ode to summer.
Harvesters shows a man and two women on their way to start the harvest in the fields around Skagen. It is unusual in the canon of the Skagen Painters whose works mainly focused on the lives of the local fishing community or depicted interior or domestic scenes. The picture is divided authoritatively into two sections: the blue sky above and the yellow cereal below with only the figures of the harvesters breaking the swathes of colour. Anna Ancher produced a few harvest scenes, all similarly setting the harvesters as the focus of the scene. The fields of ripe crops link naturally to a theme of fertility and in contrast the man carrying the scythe at the front of the group conjures up images of death, personified as the Grim Reaper; Ancher is juxtaposing life and death, but she is also depicting the order and division of labour of the harvest: traditionally the man would scythe down the crop and the women would gather up the straw with just their hands or with a rake or pitchfork. Ancher’s paintings are, for the most part, not Symbolist works, but as she wrote in a letter to Martha Johansen (the wife of fellow Skagen painter, Viggo Johansen) in 1893, she thought that although she tended to “stick to nature…a little bit of Symbolism from time to time really does no harm.”
Mary Cassatt, like her contemporary Thomas Eakins, left Philadelphia for study in Paris in 1866. As a woman, she was ineligible for admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and perhaps because she was excluded from the official system, her taste in art was much more adventurous than that of any other young American expatriate artist. Cassatt was drawn to the work of such antiestablishment figures as Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, and the group derisively called the “Impressionists” after their first exhibition in 1874. Her friend and artistic adviser Edgar Degas invited her to exhibit with the Impressionists, and she was the only American to do so, beginning in 1879. A Woman and Girl Driving, portraying the artist’s sister Lydia Cassatt with a young niece of Degas’s in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, shows Cassatt’s affinity with the Impressionists in the depiction of a scene of daily life with fresh colors and loosely defined forms. The asymmetrical composition and its abrupt truncation on all four sides are particularly reminiscent of her friend Degas. Darrel Sewell, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 289.
Backer produced just around 180 works of art mostly based upon local themes. Her work was both slow and thorough. In 1880, she debuted in Paris with the painting Solitude , and in 1883 exhibited Blått interior at the Autumn Exhibition in Oslo. She was influenced by impressionism. She never belonged to any school but her work is often compared with that of her contemporary Eilif Peterssen (1852–1928). Backer worked in the tradition of realism in painting, where she is regarded as both a naturalist and an early Impressionist.