Focusing on images of or produced by well-to-do nineteenth-century European women, this volume explores genteel femininity as resistant to easy codification vis-Ã -vis the public. Attending to various iterations of the public as space, sphere and discourse, sixteen essays challenge the false binary construct that has held the public as the sole preserve of prosperous men. By contrast, the essays collected in Women, Femininity and Public Space in European Visual Culture, 1789-1914 demonstrate that definitions of both femininity and the public were mutually defining and constantly shifting. In examining the relationship between affluent women, femininity and the public, the essays gathered here consider works by an array of artists that includes canonical ones such as Mary Cassatt and FranÃ§ois Gérard as well as understudied women artists including Louise Abbéma and Broncia Koller. The essays also consider works in a range of media from fashion prints and paintings to private journals and architectural designs, facilitating an analysis of femininity in public across the cultural production of the period. Various European centers, including Madrid, Florence, Paris, Brittany, Berlin and London, emerge as crucial sites of production for genteel femininity, providing a long-overdue rethinking of modern femininity in the public sphere.
'This collection of essays presents important new research that challenges the traditional binary of public and private and reframes conventional interpretations of gendered space. The authors promote a more complex understanding of empowered female subjectivity and agency in Western Europe and North America in the long nineteenth century. The detailed and theoretically rigorous studies demonstrate the important roles of women in both shaping and enacting modernity as public maternal figures, artists, collectors, art historians, pedestrians, travelers and consumers of art and fashion.' Alison McQueen, McMaster University, Canada