Alix d'Anethan 

Alix d'Anethan 

Biography of Alix d'Anethan  ( 1848-1921 )

Being or becoming an artist was not an easy path for women in the 19th century. Until the end of the century, women were not yet admitted to the vast majority of art academies, and their training was therefore provided by private teachers or workshops.

Such was the case for Alix d'Anethan, born in Brussels in 1848 into a noble family on her father's side and an artist's family, the Artans de Saint Martin, on her mother's side. After attending the studio of Émile Wauters and practicing copying at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Baroness Alix d'Anethan went to Paris to the studio of Alfred Stevens, which was specially open to women. There, she rubbed shoulders with her compatriots Louise Héger, Berthe Art and Georgette Meunier, among others.

She then became the pupil and muse of Pierre Puvis de Chavanne, whose influence can be seen in her work. Indeed, critics of the time often reduced her to this influence and relationship alone, constantly insisting on the artistic filiation that united them.

The Cercle des femmes peintres, closely connected with Alfred Stevens' studio, welcomed Alix d'Anethan's work to Brussels in 1888. Thanks to the Cercle, four exhibitions devoted exclusively to women artists were held at the Musée Moderne between 1888 and 1895. It testifies to the desire of women artists to carve out a place for themselves in the male-dominated field of painting, and to counter the dilettante image often attributed to them by art critics. The success of the first exhibition was limited, however, and d'Anethan refused to be confined to the circle. She would not participate in future editions, preferring to confront the official Salons. She already exhibited in Paris from 1885 to 1895, in Brussels, at the Universal Exhibition in Antwerp in 1885 and in Munich in 1909.

At the Salon du Champ de Mars in 1895, critics praised the qualities of this "worthy pupil of an illustrious master", emphasizing the noble, poetic simplicity that emanates from her work. Her painting "L'été" was acquired by the state, before being deposited with the Assemblée Nationale in 1900 and now assigned to the Musée d'Orsay. In her paintings, Alix d'Anethan observed a restraint of color, often limiting herself to a strong colorimetric mood. She would be described as a "decolorist", a term that illustrates the effacement often attributed to female artists at the very end of the 19th century.

In her Paris studio, she welcomed many artists, notably painters Alfred Stevens, Edgar Degas and Alfred Besnard, but also writers and poets such as her compatriot Georges Rodenbach, whose portrait she painted. Her work was exhibited at the prestigious Galerie Durand-Ruel from 1891. Under the influence of Puvis de Chavanne, Alix d'Anethan trained as a mural painter, creating large-scale frescoes of allegorical, religious or mythological history, in compositions that were often uncluttered and synthetically drawn. She uses a restricted range of colors and assumes a flatness of composition. She notably created frescoes for the choir of the Cochin hospital chapel in Paris, as well as monumental canvases for the church in Boffres.

A major posthumous exhibition was devoted to him at the Galerie Durand Ruel in June 1921, with the help of friends including the Comtesse Etienne de Beaumont. The exhibition catalog was prefaced by his friend, the painter Albert Besnard.

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