Throughout the 19th and 20th century artists took many different artistic paths across Europe through movements such as Impressionism and Symbolism. Many artists criticized the artistic establishment for its rigid definitions of what styles of work were acceptable, choosing to paint everyday subjects with an emphasis on realism and naturalism. French artist Édouard Manet was one of the first to paint striking images of modern urban lives.
Women seeking to become professional painters faced some opposition. Life classes were initially considered ‘improper’ restricting them from the bedrock of an academic training. Hanna Pauli’s portrait of her artist friend Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, painted in their shared studio in Montparnasse in Paris 1886-1887 was highly unusual - bourgeois women did not usually dress and behave like this.
Artist Maria Wiik studied initially in Finland then at the Académie Julian in Paris, one of the few private schools accepting women at the time.
Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, whose work had a major influence on German Expressionism, is famed for this emblematic depiction of isolation and anguish.
Expressionist painter Richard Gerstl worked outside the Viennese establishment but was intimately connected to expressionist musical circles, such as the Schoenberg family depicted in this work.