FRANCE, C.1930

26 X 21 INCHES

Emilie Charmy

Emilie Charmy was a prolific painter in France during the early and mid – twentieth century, despite the marginalization of education and resources for women artists at the time.

In the late 19th century enrollment was closed to women at l’École des Beaux-Arts so Charmy first received private lessons from artist Jacques Martin in Lyon. Martin encouraged her singing career as well, which warranted a performance opportunity in New Orleans, however her brother forbade it. In 1902 she moved to St. Cloud on the outskirts of Paris with her brother where he consistently encouraged Charmy to continue painting. They eventually moved to Paris where Charmy settled into what would become her home and studio for the following seventy years.

In 1904 Charmy exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants and in 1905 at the Salon d’Automne, where the term “les fauves” was first used by critic Louis Vauxcelles to describe the bright boldness and freedom of Fauvism. Charmy’s work at the time encompassed mostly still lifes, though executed with a distinctly masculine command. She quickly gained recognition and acclaim among her peers including the reputable dealer Berthe Weil, who helped Charmy launch her career. Critic Roland Dorgelès praised Charmy by writing that she “… sees like a woman and paints like a man.” Though today considered an extremely gendered and offensive critique was at the time an outstanding compliment.

An admirer, Georges Bouche, was so struck by Charmy’s work he insisted on meeting the artist under the assumption she was a man due to her artistic mastery. The two became well acquainted, eventually married and had a son, Edmond. Charmy and Bouche lived independently from each other for quite sometime as she was extremely committed to and focused on her career.

Charmy’s fame and exposure grew as she had several solo exhibitions and participated in a group show at the esteemed Galerie d’Oeuvres d’Art as well as the 1913 Armory Show. Charmy was made an official member of the Salon d’Automne in 1910. She attracted the attention of patron Compte Etienne de Jouvencel who arranged an exhibition for Charmy at the Galerie Styles alongside her male contemporaries Ingres, Delacroix, Corot, Manet, Renoir, Matisse, Cèzanne, Derain, Rouault and Picasso.

The oeuvre in which Charmy worked ranged from still lifes, figures and nudes to political portraiture. Though most subject matter is deemed ‘feminine’ her technique, stylization and aesthetic demand is highly masculine. She was acclaimed by critic Louis Vauxcelles in 1921 as ‘one of the most remarkable women [artists] of our time.’ She became identified with and established alongside Suzanne Valadon, Jacqueline Marval, Marie Blanchard, Marie Vassiliev and Sonia Delaunay.
The majority of Charmy’s work is held in private collections, though some exists in the Paris Museum of Modern Art, the Georges Pompidou Centre at Beaubourg, the Musée d el’Orangerie, the Tel-Aviv Museum and the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lyon.

She painted well into her seventies and died in 1974 at the age of ninety-four. In 1980 her son, Edmond Bouche, wrote of her life and work for an exhibition by the Patrick Seale Gallery in London. In recent years, the Kunsthaus Bühler Gallery in Stuttgart, Germany has presented a large number of Charmy’s paintings.