The National Gallery has just bought an amazing Eva Gonzales painting, here's why that matters

She's now just the 20th female artist in their collection

Eddy Frankel
Written by
Eddy Frankel
Art & Culture Editor
Eva Gonzalès  La Psyché (The Full-length Mirror), about 1869-70 © The National Gallery, London
Eva Gonzalès La Psyché (The Full-length Mirror), about 1869-70 © The National Gallery, London

To celebrate what would have been artist Eva Gonzales’s 177th birthday, the National Gallery has just picked up a stunning work by the French impressionist called ‘La Psyché’. 

In the beautifully composed painting, a woman – the artist’s sister Jeanne – stands with her back to the viewer, a red flower in her hand as she gazes into a mirror. The setting is drab, dour, grey and brown, the whole painting is almost monochrome. This kind of gloomy interior setting was a common theme among the female impressionists, who weren’t able to paint outside with the freedom of the men. Instead, they depicted life inside the salons and bedrooms of their lives, they painted their families, their children; it gives a more intimate, private, reserved view of the lives of these artists.

The National Gallery regularly comes in for heavy criticism for having only 20 female artists in its collection. To an extent, it’s not totally the gallery’s fault. Art – as a profession – was dominated by men for centuries. Women were relegated to painting or sculpting as a hobby at best; being a professional artist just wasn’t an avenue open to most women in history up until relatively recently. That’s why the majority of the National Gallery’s collection is of art by men; it’s the result of centuries of gender inequality and injustice. But they’re taking steps to begin to redress the balance, and the purchase of this Eva Gonzales work is a big, beautiful leap. 

The National Gallery is celebrating its 200th birthday this year, find more details about that here.

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