Only Amateurs! Aristocratic Women Artists during the 19th Century

  • Wendy Wiertz (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


The Narodna galerija in Ljubljana shows two delicately painted flower still lives by Marija von Auersperg, née von Attems (1816-1880). One of her family members, Sophie von Auersperg, later Princess of Arenberg (1811-1901) also drew and painted. She collected her drawing and water colours in an album showing the daily aristocratic life in Europe, portraits and caricatures of her family members and friends. Both women practiced the arts, but are not considered as great artists. ‘Why have there been no great artists from aristocracy?’ asked Linda Nochlin in 1971. Although – at least for the 19th century – there were very few professional artists with a noble background, almost all women and many men practiced the arts as amateurs. For a long time, this group has been largely neglected assuming they only dabbled in the arts during their pastime, delivered copies and qualitatively bad work. Are these prejudices true? I examine the lives and art practices of aristocratic women during the 19th century in Belgium. I more specifically study their art education, the different objects, their studio, the possible participation(s) to exhibitions and the destination of their art works. I also consider if the way in which these women practiced their hobby changed throughout the 19th century. Their art works, letters and pictures – often preserved in castles and private archives, combined with the literature – show the artistic life of the aristocratic ladies. The results drawn from many Belgian and in relation to European case studies are surprising. I will show that aristocratic women artists during the 19th century were mainly amateurs who practised their hobby in different manners. What they shared, was a love for the arts.
Period26 May 2016
Event titleThe Aspect of Woman
Event typeConference
LocationLjubljana, SloveniaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational