• Reading Public Museum
    Open 11a-5p Daily Admission
  • Neag Planetarium
    Show Schedule Admission
  • Arboretum
    Open everyday from sunrise to sunset

As we begin to enjoy the warm weather and revival of spring colors in our backyards, we should take a moment to honor and celebrate the contributions, achievements, and experiences of women across the ages. Throughout their unwavering perseverance to be seen and heard in society, powerful women have left an imprint on all facets of life – especially the arts. By designing, drawing, painting, and sculpting in a historically male-dominant field, women have created art to feature diverse perspectives, challenge norms, and address universal female experiences to overcome obstacles and ignite revolution. At the Reading Public Museum, we would like to highlight and reflect on some of the female artists in our collection and their contributions to the art world. 

One of the most iconic artistic periods in the mid-to-late 19th century was the Impressionist movement. Situated upon the idea that art can be more than academic painting, Impressionists focused on loose and expressive brushstrokes, conveyed light and shadows through use of bold colors, and captured the overall mood of a landscape or subject rather than precise details. Even though this movement sought to overturn ingrained art norms, women were often excluded from contributing.  

However, this did not stop female artists from persevering. Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot (1841–1895) was one of the few women who became a member of the Impressionist movement and even showed her work at the prestigious Paris Salon and Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (The Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculpturers, and Printmakers) where she was the only female founding member. Her and her sisters were unable to attend the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris, an esteemed fine arts school that was closed to women, and instead were privately instructed by Geoffroy Alphonse Chocarne, Joseph Guichard, Achille Oudinot, and Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot – all renowned painters. Morisot’s paintings usually depicted her family, private feminine moments, and her daughter, Julie Manet. Her artwork, Girl with Cat (Jeune fille au chat), depicts her daughter holding a cat and is in the collection of the Museum.  

In the spring spirit of bold and vibrant colors, Sonia Delaunay (18851979) is another artist who made significant strides in the art world. As a Ukraine-born French artist and designer, Delaunay was influenced by Fauvism – an early 20th century modern art movement focused on expressive brushstrokes and vivid colors to portray mood and emotion rather than realistic representations. She and her second husband, Robert Delauney, studied color theory and how complementary colors can make art more intense and interesting to the viewer. They also combined Cubism and Neo-Impressionism, later called Orphism, focusing on colors and abstraction. Over the course of her career, she used this new knowledge to produce paintings, textiles, and designs, and was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964 and was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor in 1975. One of her works, Composition X - a piece featuring colorful ink on paper – is featured on the Museum’s online collection. 

If you ever desire to see unique Berks County landscapes from an artist’s perspective, look no further than Mary B. Leisz (18761935). Born in Reading, PA and taught by prominent Berks County landscape artist Christopher Shearer, who was RPM’s first curator, Leisz was a prolific modern painter. She mastered both oil and watercolor and eventually developed her own distinct style. Her paintings usually portray nocturnal landscapes, rural scenes, and barnyard chickens, reflecting her life in Berks County. While the Reading Public Museum houses her autumnal paintings like, Tulpehocken Creek and Quiet Autumn, her landscape artwork Forest Scene focuses on the warmer days ahead in Reading.  

The Reading Public Museum is located at 500 Museum Road Reading, PA 19611 and is open to the public every day from 11am-5pm. 


April 2, 2024


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