An examination of Finnish artist Elin Danielson-Gambogi’s (1861–1919) portrait of her sister, Finished Breakfast (1890)— alongside American artist Mary Cassatt’s (1844–1926) portrait of her mother, Reading Le Figaro (1878) —provides a useful point of departure for exploring the social, cultural, and institutional position of late nineteenth-century Finnish women artists. Both Danielson-Gambogi and Cassatt were foreign art students in Paris, from families of social prominence, and with some interest in women’s political movements. As was typical for female artists of their milieu, Danielson-Gambogi and Cassatt in these two paintings depict modernity through the subject of the private life of the modern woman. Do the commonalities among and differences between their paintings—and the critical responses to them—reveal anything distinctive about the specific position of Finnish women artists?
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