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National Gallery acquires its first painting by Eva Gonzalès

  • May 15, 2024
  • 2 min read
National Gallery acquires its first painting by Eva Gonzalès

On the occasion of the artist’s 177th birthday, the National Gallery has acquired La Psyché (The Full-length Mirror), about 1869‒70, by Eva Gonzalès (1849‒1883) thanks to three generous legacy gifts from Mrs Martha Doris Bailey, Miss Gillian Cleaver, and Ms Sheila Mary Holmes, and the National Gallery Trust.

This is the first acquisition by the Gallery of a work by Gonzalès and the second acquisition of its Bicentenary year. ‘La Psyché’ has not been seen in public for over seventy years and joins only one other painting by her in a UK public collection, ‘The Donkey Ride’, about 1880‒2, at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

Gonzalès is the 20th female artist represented in the National Gallery Collection, marking a significant addition. The story of Gonzalès’s reputation, during and after her life, reflects some of the reasons why women artists are not well represented in the National Gallery.

These include being offered fewer opportunities in life and the lack of interest shown, consciously or not, in works by women artists by collectors of the era and onwards, from whose acquisitions the National Gallery’s own collection was assembled.

During her lifetime Gonzalès was an established artist who exhibited multiple times to acclaim at the official Paris Salon. She was the only official pupil of Edouard Manet (1832‒1883), with whom she studied from 1869. Gonzalès likely painted ‘La Psyché’ around the same time that Manet was painting his portrait of her, Eva Gonzalès (1870, the National Gallery). That work, in the Gallery collection, was the focal point of the recent exhibition, Discover Manet & Eva Gonzalès.

Manet presented her in the unlikely painting outfit of a white gown, touching up an already framed floral still life, as much an allegory of painting as a practising artist. The acquisition of ‘La Psyché’ will continue the work started in that exhibition, providing a counterbalance to Manet’s presentation of Gonzalès as somewhere between a serious painter and society beauty, by showing her skills as a talented and lauded painter in her own right.

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