Elizabeth Nourse (1859-1938)

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Spanierman Gallery, NYC

Elizabeth Nourse was an American genre painter of considerable reputation both here and abroad. Born in Cincinnati, she was trained at the Cincinnati School of Design, where she studied with Thomas S. Noble, a genre painter of mid-century renown, and Louis T. Rebisso. In l879, she became a member of the Cincinnati Pottery Club and in 188l she helped found the Etching Club in that city.

Despite being offered a position as drawing instructor at the Cincinnati School of Design, Nourse left America around 1887 to study in Paris. She expected to stay no more than a few years, but, like many of her compatriots in the latter years of the nineteenth century, stayed for a lifetime.

Nourse's professor at the Académie Julian, Gustave Boulanger, found her much further advanced than most of his other students and advised her to work on her own. After only three months at the Academy, she started painting independently, and within a year one of her works was accepted for hanging "on the line" (at eye level) at the Paris Salon. She was accepted regularly thereafter.

In 1885, Nourse became the first American woman voted into the Societé National des Beaux Arts, and the first to have one of her paintings purchased by the French government for the permanent collection of the Luxembourg Museum. Before long, her work began to win many awards. On her only trip home, in 1893, she enjoyed a successful solo show at the Cincinnati Museum; two years later her paintings received special notice at the Chicago Exposition.

Based in Paris, Nourse traveled widely in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Austria, and Russia, always looking for scenes of humble life, particularly of hard-working peasant women and their children. Fisher Girl of Picardy (1889, National Museum of American Art) is a notable example. She was widely recognized as a major figure among the American expatriates, and her work has been described as being a forerunner of social realism.

Elizabeth Nourse is represented in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, the National Gallery of Art, the Newark Museum, the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, and in many other public and private collections both here and in abroad.


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