Volume 23, Issue 1 | Spring 2024

A City of One’s Own: The Parisian Letters of the Swedish Painter Hanna Hirsch-Pauli

by Carina Rech
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Fig. 1, Photographic Studio of Rasmus Ovesen, Portrait of Hanna Hirsch, early 1880s. Photograph. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the owner, © Lars Engelhardt / Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm.

In the last decade, much feminist scholarship in art history and related disciplines has focused on the position of women as actors and spectators in the public sphere in turn-of-the-century Paris.‍[1] At the same time, there has been an increased interest from a transcultural perspective in the experience of expatriate artists who studied and exhibited in Paris, investigating how they not only were inspired by the city’s art scene but also actively participated in it.‍[2] Drawing on both perspectives, this article focuses on the previously unpublished letters of the Swedish artist Hanna Hirsch-Pauli (1864–1940) (fig. 1), henceforth referred to by her maiden name Hanna Hirsch, to her family during her study trips to Paris in 1885–87. Employing an intersectional feminist approach, I explore Hirsch’s epistolary self-fashioning in relation to her multiple identities as an artist, a Jewish woman, a member of the Swedish upper-middle class, and a foreigner. Rather than focusing on how her female gender determined her experience as an art student in Paris, as has been the case in previous research, my aim is to show how gender, class, ethnicity, and national belonging all intersected to shape her experience abroad.‍[3]

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Fig. 2, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, The Artist Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, 1887. Oil on canvas. Göteborgs Kunstmuseum, Gothenburg. Artwork in the public doman; photograph © Hossein Sehatlou / Göteborgs Kunstmuseum.

While previous research has depicted Hirsch, and aspiring Nordic women artists in general, mainly as diligent students who navigated between the private academies and their studios, this article argues that the exploration of modern urban life and its amusements was central to Hirsch’s Parisian experience—indeed, it was her primary focus during her first year abroad.‍[4] Hirsch’s letters challenge prior assumptions that the formative and emancipatory spaces for Nordic women artists in Paris were exclusively their studios, suggesting instead that the city itself played an equally significant role. In her epistolary writing, Hirsch fashioned herself as a flâneuse, who studied life on the streets and boulevards as well as in parks, cafés, theaters, and department stores. But rather than making her engagement with the public sphere a theme of her art, it was the letters she wrote during this time that emerged as the primary outlet for expressing her encounters with the metropolis. Indeed, Hirsch never painted the urban environment that she so vividly depicted in her letters, perhaps because her primary artistic aim during her Parisian sojourn was to make a name for herself at the Salon. Consequently, she focused on the naturalist figure painting that she had already been trained in at the art academy in Stockholm and that was also favored by the jury of the Salon, who included her preferred teacher and mentor Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852–1929). This strategy was successful: at the end of Hirsch’s Parisian sojourn, in the spring of 1887, her portrait of Venny Soldan (1863–1945) (fig. 2) was accepted at the Salon. However, I will argue that this portrait, depicting her Finnish friend and colleague at work as a sculptor, seated on the floor in an uncompromisingly radical portrayal of female professionalism, owes everything to Hirsch’s experience of Paris, which freed her from the constraints of her bourgeois upbringing and gave her not just a room of her own but an entire city.‍[5]

The Artist and Her Correspondence

Hirsch was the daughter of the music publisher Abraham Hirsch (1815–1900) and his wife Pauline (1827–1908; née Meyerson) (fig. 3). Hanna grew up in one of the most culturally influential Jewish families in Stockholm. Her childhood coincided with what has been described as the “Swedish-Jewish elite’s golden age,”‍[6] during which assimilated Jews contributed decisively to the industrial, social, and cultural transformation of Sweden into a modern nation-state.‍[7] Hirsch was born in 1864, the year in which the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm opened a women’s department in order to provide female students with a professional artistic education that was more or less on a par with that of their male peers. Hirsch’s artistic talent was recognized and supported by her family early on. As was the case for many girls of a bourgeois upbringing, she developed an interest not only in drawing but also in music and singing. At age twelve, Hirsch enrolled in the private art school of August Malmström (1829–1901) in Stockholm. At around the same time she received, together with an exclusive group of girls of similar backgrounds, private lessons in history from the feminist intellectual and writer Ellen Key (1849–1926), who later became an important figure in the progressive educational movement. Between 1881 and 1885, Hirsch studied at the art academy in Stockholm. In her final year, on the occasion of the academy’s 150th anniversary, she was awarded a hertiglig medalj (prize) for the genre painting By Lamplight, for which her family members served as models (fig. 4). With its contemporary subject and ambitious composition, this painting demonstrated that she already was an accomplished artist by the time she traveled to France.

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Fig. 3, Unknown photographer, Portrait of Abraham and Pauline Hirsch, date unknown (taken during the early years of their marriage). Photograph. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the owner, © Lars Engelhardt / Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm.
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Fig. 4, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, By Lamplight, 1885. Oil on canvas. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the owner, © Cecilia Heisser / Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.
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Fig. 5, Unknown photographer, Georg Pauli at the piano, Hanna Hirsch standing, and Venny Soldan sitting in the studio at 53, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Paris, 1887. Photograph. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the owner, © Lars Engelhardt / Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm.

Upon her arrival in Paris, Hirsch became an integral member of the Swedish urban artists’ colony. During her time in France, she also joined the secessionist opponentrörelsen (opponent movement), demanding a modernization of the teaching methods and exhibition practices at the academy in Stockholm.‍[8] She resided in the French capital from October 1885 to June 1886 and again from November 1886 until the summer of 1887. During her first sojourn, she lived in the guesthouse Villa des Dames at 77, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs in Montparnasse, an area popular among artists.‍[9] During her second stay, Hirsch shared a combined apartment and studio on the same street, at number 53, with her Finnish friend and colleague Soldan (fig. 5).‍[10]

Today, Hanna Hirsch’s Parisian letters are in private hands. Here they are presented and analyzed in depth for the first time. The correspondence consists of twenty-one letters to her sister Betty Hirsch (1862–1922), a single letter to her mother Pauline, and one letter addressed to both sister and mother, all written between October 1885 and November 1886.‍[11] Whereas the artist’s first winter in Paris is relatively well documented in the correspondence, only two of the letters date from the second sojourn, both written in November 1886. In addition to Hanna’s letters, the replies by her correspondents also have been studied: they comprise twenty-two letters from Betty, twenty letters from Pauline (one of these includes a short greeting by Abraham), and two letters from her brother Otto Hirsch. These letters serve as complementary sources and allow us to better grasp the artist’s family background.‍[12]

Epistolary Self-Fashioning

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Fig. 6, Unknown photographer, Hanna and Betty Hirsch during the summer holiday in Norway prior to Hanna Hirsch’s departure for Paris (detail from a group photograph), 1885. Photograph. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the owner, © Lars Engelhardt / Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm.

During her stays in Paris, Hirsch’s letters were the sole means of communication between the artist and her family in Stockholm. During her first sojourn, she typically wrote one letter a week, on Sundays, summing up the events of the previous days.‍[13] The artist had a particularly intimate relationship with her sister Betty (fig. 6), noting in one of her letters that she could tell her “everything,” adding: “I know you best, and I know that you understand me easily.”‍[14] After a few months apart, Hanna expressed her longing to reunite with Betty, stating: “I just feel that there is no one in the world who can replace you for me.”‍[15]

When studying letters, it is important to be aware of both the writer’s epistolary habits and the rules and conventions of letter writing in the period. In the nineteenth century, it was common practice for recipients to read letters aloud or to hand them over to other persons to read.‍[16] Despite being a private medium, the letter was intended for a broader audience beyond the addressee alone, including other family members, relatives, or those within the addressee’s immediate social circle. In the correspondence with her sister, Hanna repeatedly specified what letters Betty could or should not share with others.‍[17] In return, Betty assured Hanna that Pauline never demanded to read their correspondence,‍[18] asking her to speak freely: “often, I think that maybe you refrain from writing certain things out of fear that they might come before someone else’s eyes or ears than mine. But for the hundredth time, let me tell you to be calm about it, . . . just write as your thoughts flow.”‍[19]

Nevertheless, Hanna complained repeatedly that statements in her letters were coming back to her in the form of remarks by her friend and fellow painter Eva Bonnier (1857–1909).‍[20] The Hirsch and Bonnier families had blood ties and moved in the same elite Jewish circles in Stockholm. On one occasion, Hirsch admitted that she occasionally was occupied by thoughts of how people in her social environment in Sweden would react to her conduct abroad: “But it’s ridiculous, in any case, with people talking about trivial matters—I have really distanced myself from thinking about it now since no one says such things to me. But sometimes it happens that I think: ‘I wonder what they would say about it at home (not the family)’.”‍[21] The letters by Eva Bonnier, in which the author repeatedly speaks disparagingly of her younger friend’s cheerful temperament and “lack of appropriate calm . . . in the company of gentlemen,” underscore that such concerns were by no means unfounded.‍[22] After meeting Hirsch at a Christmas party, Bonnier reported to her family: “I will allow myself to tell you, but with all discretion, that Hanna seems to have attracted attention on Christmas Eve from everyone who did not know her before, due to her nonchalant coquettish and ‘unrestricted’ manners. Please do not let any of the Hirsch family hear about it.”‍[23]

Thus, it is important to bear in mind that the letters were written with the possibility of a broader audience in mind, one that embodied the constraints of Hirsch’s class background and reinforced its norms of conventional femininity. Betty sent a warning to her sister, reminding her of proper conduct, after having heard from mutual acquaintances in Paris that Hanna had been careless with her dress in public:

According to Isidor [Bonnier]’s and other eyewitnesses’ statements, you seem to be particularly lively, yes, you are right about that, and that you are running around in Paris without a hat, because it is so hot, can be called unabashed. But without moralizing, I must express the hope that you keep within the bounds of moderation and don’t get too crazy from time to time.‍[24]

The sister’s rebuke points to the importance of fashion accessories as markers of class distinction. Regarding the function of fashion accessories as emblems of respectability in nineteenth-century France, Susan Hiner has noted that hats and gloves were central accessories without which proper ladies were not supposed to show themselves publicly.‍[25] Even though Hanna was well aware of these sartorial rules of conduct, she did not always adhere to them, as indicated by the following remark: “When I only walk to the atelier, I don’t always bother to put gloves on; then I usually keep them in my pocket.”‍[26]

Besides reminding the artist of the appropriate dress code, her family found another means of exercising their social control by monitoring her finances, keeping her cashbook in order and trying to make sure she was not squandering her monthly allowance. Through the course of her stay abroad, Hirsch was repeatedly pressured to justify her excessive spending, which stands in marked contrast to her later statements in interviews about her humble lifestyle as an art student in Paris.‍[27] Apart from recurring accusations regarding her expenditures, Pauline appears in the correspondence as a remarkably tolerant mother, whose encouragement is acknowledged by her daughter: “From Mamma, a rather long letter, in which she mostly expresses her goodwill and interest in me, . . . she claims to live quietly, without knowledge of the outer world, but in her mind, she is equally interested in art. The dear person!”‍[28] In their letters, both Betty and Pauline kept Hanna informed about the cultural life and exhibitions in Stockholm, which points to their own interest in and understanding of the arts.

Susan Foley has suggested that the correspondence of female members of bourgeois families in the nineteenth century shows evidence of a “paradoxical feminine self” that both enabled and restricted the writers’ self-fashioning.‍[29] In similar terms, Meritxell Simon-Martin has conceptualized letter writing as a “performative act of identity formation,”‍[30] arguing that women’s exchanges of letters during this period can be conceived as both a “cultural practice constituent of middle-class female patterns of daily life” and “a form of exercising female agency.”‍[31] This ambivalence is also seen in Hirsch’s epistolary self-fashioning, which oscillates between self-assertion and self-justification.

Freedom of Movement

When it comes to firsthand accounts of Swedish women art students in Paris in the late nineteenth century, Bonnier’s letters, which were published in an annotated edition by Margareta Gynning in 1999, have long served as a central source of information and have become something of a template for imagining these women’s experiences.‍[32] This problematic focus in Swedish scholarship on a single artist’s perspective is mirrored internationally by the unparalleled dominance of the diaries of the Ukrainian-born painter Mariya Bashkirtseva (1858–84) (more commonly known as Marie Bashkirtseff), who lived in Paris from a young age and studied at the Académie Julian from 1877 until her untimely death. The diaries were first published in a censored version by the artist’s mother in 1887; since then they have been published in many editions and translations, turning the Journal de Marie Bashkirtseff into a key source for feminist art history.‍[33] Some passages in the diaries have been cited so many times that they have gained an almost canonical status, especially in relation to the gender and class conventions that prevented bourgeois women and female artists from participating as fully active agents in both the public sphere and the art world. The following passage from Bashkirtseff’s diaries, quoted in Griselda Pollock’s highly influential essay “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity,” exemplifies the limited range of movement of women artists in the period:

What I long for is the freedom of going about alone, of coming and going, of sitting in the seats of the Tuileries, and especially in the Luxembourg, of stopping and looking at the artistic shops, of entering churches and museums, of walking about old streets at night; that’s what I long for; and that’s the freedom without which one cannot become a real artist. Do you imagine that I get much good from what I see, chaperoned as I am, and when, in order to go to the Louvre, I must wait for my carriage, my lady companion, my family?‍[34]

Bashkirtseff’s social position as a member of the nobility has often been overlooked by those who study her writing or who wish to understand her personal statements as universal expressions of the female artistic experience in the nineteenth century. The importance of diversifying the writing of art history and making other artists’ voices heard becomes evident if we contrast Bashkirtseff’s statement of longing for freedom of movement with Hirsch’s actual experience of the same. In the first extant letter to Betty from October 1885, Hanna described her daily walks through Paris, priding herself on her excellent sense of direction:

You know, I find my way so well here that I walk entirely alone all the way from the other side of the Seine to Champs Élysées and back home. I know where the trams go and everything. Of course, this applies only to the parts I have been to. Today, I was briefly in the [Musée du] Luxembourg, which is close to us, the sculptures were delightful, the paintings were good and bad, and I recognized them from the Salon catalogue.‍[35]

In the same letter, she also described how her freedom of movement gave her a certain sense of self-confidence:

I was going to take the tram for a bit to get closer to my residence, but I got such a high number that I didn’t bother waiting; instead, I took a new route home. It was dark, the streetlamps were lit, but I asked for directions. Oh, it’s so enjoyable to walk alone; I never feel anxious. Eva [Bonnier] has noticed that I have an excellent sense of direction, just like hers, “based on feeling and logic,” her own words! . . . It’s truly remarkable how easily I adapt to new situations; I feel so at home on these streets as if I’ve never walked anywhere else. I have not yet felt a tiny bit of melancholy or heaviness, as I feared; on the contrary, I am quite unchristianly calm and content, harmonious and healthy, except that I miss you a lot, especially when I think that you are at home and perhaps feeling lonely. This feeling of trusting oneself is terribly pleasant; I have truly never felt so calm and secure.‍[36]

After returning to Paris for her second sojourn in November 1886, Hirsch stated that she could “walk blindfolded from street to street” and that “every face looked familiar . . . in the entire quarter.”‍[37] Her words are evidence that walking about in the metropolis, even without an escort, had become a quotidian activity for the Swedish artist.

When we compare the quote from Bashkirtseff’s diary, in which she expressed her desire to be able to explore the urban environment on her own, with Hirsch’s accounts of her everyday walks through the city, we recognize just how much the opportunities for women artists to move about in Paris differed. Whereas Bashkirtseff, who was strictly monitored by her family, appears trapped in her bourgeois femininity, Hirsch seems to have partially and temporarily escaped from the constraints of feminine decorum by means of her relocation to France.

Recent research has drawn attention to both visual and written sources that give evidence of the presence of bourgeois women not only on the boulevards of Paris but also on public transport.‍[38] Hirsch’s letters underscore the fact that not only women of the demimonde and the lower classes but also middle-class women explored the urban landscape alone, either on foot or as passengers on omnibuses, trams, and trains. The tram was Hirsch’s favored means of transportation; while aboard she often read the letters from her family or the latest novel by Émile Zola (1840–­1902).‍[39]

On several occasions, Hirsch noted that she was less fearful on the streets of Paris than in Stockholm, stating that “here one can walk alone and much later than I would dare to do at home.”‍[40] Contrasting people’s manners in public in the two capitals, Hirsch noted: “The life in the streets [of Paris] is very casual, no etiquette, only courtesy, between higher and lower [classes] alike. The only rule you need to observe is not to look too closely at the gentlemen, precisely because of the great freedom, apart from that you can do what you want without anyone noticing.”‍[41] According to Hirsch, the only limitation on a woman’s gaze on the streets of Paris was a gentleman’s gaze in return.‍[42] Summing up her first months in Paris, she concluded in January 1886 that what fascinated her most was neither the sights nor the art but the buoyant atmosphere and the lure of the metropolis itself.‍[43]

As a foreigner, Hirsch enjoyed the freedom to walk through the city unrecognized and without impediment, adopting the role of a flâneuse, observing the life on the streets, and recording it in the letters to her sister. In his essay “The Painter of Modern Life” of 1863, in which he famously introduced the figure of the flâneur, Charles Baudelaire (1821–67) described the sense of simultaneous detachment and familiarity that arises when exploring a new environment: “To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the center of the world, and yet remain hidden from the world.”‍[44] That same feeling is expressed in Hirsch’s letter from October 1885, when she writes: “I feel so at home on these streets as if I have never walked anywhere else.”

The flâneuse is a contested and vigorously debated figure in feminist scholarship.‍[45] Gynning has insisted in regard to both nineteenth-century women in general and Hirsch and other Swedish women in particular that “the ‘flaneuse’ did not exist, because women did not enjoy the right to anonymity in the crowds. A bourgeois woman could not move freely in the city, because her position was not included as a part of the public world. Women were not considered to have the right to see, stare, gaze or observe.”‍[46] Hirsch’s claim that “you can do what you want without anyone noticing” in regard to her own life in public (with the exception of gazing at men) suggests the opposite. In her letters, her role as a flâneuse is evident.

However, the dominance of the concept of the flâneur as the sole framework through which to make sense of the perception of modernity in the nineteenth century has in recent years been rightly criticized as simplistic and exclusive.‍[47] Although I am aware of the limitations of the idea of the flâneur/flâneuse as a “bourgeois discursive construct,”‍[48] I argue that it retains its usefulness when describing Hirsch’s engagement with the modern metropolis, because it allows me to render visible an upper-middle-class woman and a female artist as an agent who sees, gazes, and observes in the public sphere.

In conceiving of Hirsch as a flâneuse, I aim to contribute to recent scholarly reconsiderations of how women of the upper-middle class engaged with public space. Art historians Temma Balducci and Heather Belnap Jensen have proposed “a more liberal, non-masculinist definition of the public sphere” that reaches beyond the realm of government and institutions, positing that women were “important actors in other public spaces that included museums, parks, cafés, theaters, salons, shops and the streets.”‍[49] Whereas these scholars have based their arguments largely on the analysis of the period’s visual and print culture, such as paintings or caricatures published in periodicals or etiquette manuals, this article relies on the private medium of letters.‍[50] Ultimately, Hirsch’s letters support the notion that the perspective of the flâneuse was indeed embraced by women as a subversive means of partaking in public life, enabling them to challenge the boundaries of decorum and conduct tied to their specific social positions.

From the Bon Marché to Pasteur’s Office: Epistolary Chronicles of Modern Life

During her first winter abroad, Hirsch immersed herself in the seemingly inexhaustible cultural life of Paris, becoming a frequent visitor to theaters, museums, and exhibitions. Shortly after her arrival in the city in October 1885, she noted about the Musée du Luxembourg that “here, the art is not locked away, but you can walk straight in from the garden, from where you can look right at the sculptures through the open doors.”‍[51] In the same letter, she enthusiastically summed up her visit to the Exposition de Travail at the Palais de l’Industrie:

A world’s fair cannot be more magnificent. So vast, so energetic, everything from flowers and fruits to large coal mines with wax figures and an elevator that takes you underground into artificial mines with artificial workers who look real. All sorts of factory items with people working continuously so that one can see how it’s done.‍[52]

On a Saturday in late October, Hirsch met up with some Swedish acquaintances, and together they took a cab and drove along the boulevard de Clichy, past the place de la Concorde to the Champs-Élysées and finally to the Bois de Boulogne to see the cascade, following the driver’s recommendation. Hirsch depicted the spectacle that unfolded in the park in a letter to her sister:

There was a large outdoor restaurant, where we stopped and dined. True Parisian life as described in the novels that one doesn’t believe in, elegant carriages drove there, cabs and riding vicomtes with their painted ladies. There they sat and looked at each other! . . . The Bois de Boulogne is delightful, elegant, and vast, the sun was shining, and we drove between double rows of carriages. I’ve never seen so many people at once. . . . If you had a map, you could follow my descriptions, although it is a poor substitute.‍[53]

Hirsch and her company drove along what Greg M. Thomas has described as “the central axis of modern spectacle” in Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s grand reconfiguration of Paris, beginning in the Tuileries and ending in the Bois de Boulogne.‍[54] At the time, the Bois was widely recognized as the most important site of public spectacle in Paris, especially due to the grand processions of carriages on the weekends. It is interesting to contrast Hirsch’s panoramic epistolary vision of her visit to the Bois de Boulogne with painted representations of the activities of women in the park by female impressionists, such as Berthe Morisot’s (1841–95) In the Bois de Boulogne, painted in the 1870s (fig. 7), and Mary Cassatt’s (1844–1926) Driving from 1881 (fig. 8). Yet while Morisot and Cassatt painted their female protagonists in more intimate, close-up compositions, Hirsch, by contrast, described herself as blending into the crowds and becoming an integral part of the public spectacle, an immersive experience she tried to evoke for the reader of her letter.

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Fig. 7, Berthe Morisot, In the Bois de Boulogne, 1870s. Oil on canvas. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Artwork in the public domain; photograph by Erik Cornelius / Nationalmuseum.
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Fig. 8, Mary Cassatt, Driving, 1881. Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. Artwork in the public domain; available from: Google Art Project.

In November 1885, Hirsch mentioned that she had visited the Musée du Louvre on her own, stating: “It’s terribly enjoyable to stroll even though I still haven’t learned yet about all the departments and galleries there. Still, I walked around and read diligently in my Baedeker in the midst of the rain under the old Tuileries. Surely the good people then mistook me for an Englishwoman.”‍[55] A few weeks later, she was impressed to see the panoramic painting La Bataille de Champigny (The Battle of Champigny; 1880–82) by Alphonse de Neuville (1835–85) and Jean Baptiste Edouard Detaille (1848–1912), which was exhibited in the Panorama National on the Champs-Élysées: “I believe if one has seen a panorama before, they might not be so surprised, but for me, it was something magnificent. I could have sworn that all of this was reality, that far away the horizon was visible with burning villages and fire from cannons. I must see it again soon.”‍[56]

In similar terms, her first visit to the already legendary department store the Bon Marché made a lasting impression on her, due to its gigantic scale:

One could truly get dizzy in the head there. Three galleries on top of each other, a thousand sections, but in a frightful order. When you stood up there, it looked down below like outside the Grand Hôtel on Kristina Nilsson’s evening. It occupies a whole block. And all the attendants, running around, the girls entirely dressed in black and slim at the waist like wasps. Have you read “The Ladies’ Paradise” by Zola, I thought about it in there.‍[57]

The artist compared her impression of the throngs of shoppers in the department store to a disaster involving a crowd that had occurred just a few weeks earlier in Stockholm, when the opera singer Kristina Nilsson gave a concert from the balcony of her hotel, attracting thousands of people, as well as to Zola’s novel Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Delight) of 1883, which, set in the world of the department store, was directly inspired by the Bon Marché.‍[58]

In December, the Swedish mathematician and Hirsch’s childhood friend Ivar Bendixson (1861–1935) visited Paris, inviting her to accompany him to the Grand Boulevards, where he wanted to “show [her] the nice cocottes.”‍[59] Hirsch noted in a letter to her sister that Bendixson was surprised that she was unable to distinguish the members of the demimonde from respectable women who were passing by on the streets.‍[60] As Karen J. Leader has argued, such confusion was a recurring theme in contemporary caricature. Once ready-to-wear attire was easily available to women of diverse social backgrounds in the department stores of Paris, the class distinctions that were previously readable through clothes were rendered unclear.‍[61] Hirsch’s description of the cocottes reveals both her amazement and fascination with the women’s flamboyant appearance. At the same time, her epistolary account suggests that she shared her male companion’s gaze, observing and studying the demimonde just as actively as he did. Hirsch admired in particular a “red-haired, modern, brilliant beauty,” whom Bendixson had met at the Café Américain, stating without a hint of condescension: “The conversation tone between gentlemen and such ladies here is, however, completely impeccable, just like with fine ladies. The manner is always polite among the French, said Ivar, and that is what distinguishes this socializing from the tone at home, where the pleasure consists of uttering crudities to such ladies.”‍[62]

In the evening, Hirsch and Bendixson visited the Folies Bergère, where they “got to see that kind of people both on and off stage.”‍[63] Hirsch eventually summarized her impressions as follows:

We didn’t have assigned seats but wandered around the aisles, the garden, and everywhere. In fact, we watched the performance from different places; you can sit wherever you want; it is a common variety show with ballets and everything. Perhaps, however, more daring, and better in its genre than I have seen before. There, we had refreshments, and Ivar was tricked into buying roses for me. He bought violets for me on the street, so I was as fine as the others. You should see them strolling among the gentlemen, throwing scrutinizing glances, adorned, sometimes quite elegant.‍[64]

In her account of her visit to the Folies Bergère, Hirsch does not appear as a remote or passive observer. Rather, she moves around in the theater freely, changing her perspective and merging with the crowd in a manner that renders her a part of the scenery. In contrast to visual sources of the period, which usually depict a woman of her class at the opera or the theater as an observer in a single, carefully staged moment, written sources, such as this letter, are better suited to reflect a temporal progression. Hirsch describes herself as an active agent partaking in the offstage spectacle of the Folies Bergère, without any fear of contact with others. She wrote about her impressions of the Carnival celebration on the boulevard Saint-Michel and her subsequent visit to the Bal Bullier in March 1886 in similar terms:

There was an incredible hustle, so crowded, and lots of students marching in formation and engaging in all sorts of fun, dressed up in all unimaginable costumes, mostly fake noses, girls dressed up as boys, etc. There was laughter, talk, and dancing right in the middle of the street, everything is allowed. We got tired and went into a café for a while to warm up. Later, we went to the Bal Bullier; beautiful legs and beautiful costumes; but so darn decent, no cancan at all!‍[65]

Hirsch’s status as a foreigner and outsider in French society allowed her to transgress class boundaries to a certain extent and interact with people from different social backgrounds without fear of compromising her own status.‍[66] On an almost daily basis, she and her colleagues came into contact with workers and local people from lower classes in the cafés and restaurants in their Montparnasse neighborhood, which is reflected in epistolary anecdotes such as this:

I have just been out for lunch at a new restaurant, two streets from here, the fourth one I’ve tried, and I was very pleased with this one, cheap, simple, nice, and good food. A woman owns it, and I have already made the acquaintance of a man, probably a worker, decent people, with whom one does not need to be afraid to speak; he thought I spoke French so well that he couldn’t believe I was a foreigner.‍[67]

On another occasion, Hirsch mentioned that she had asked a local gardener to pose for her, stating that he was “an acquaintance from our little tavern. He is called ‘Jesus’ and is a representative of the French joie de vivre.”‍[68]

In April 1886, Hirsch visited Louis Pasteur’s (1822–95) office to watch the famous physician and his assistants vaccinate people, which by that time, as visual sources suggest, had become an unusual tourist attraction.‍[69] She accompanied a group of Finns, the members of which had been bitten by a “mad dog” and had come to Paris to receive medical treatment by Pasteur, who the previous year had developed a vaccination against rabies that was widely perceived as a sensational medical breakthrough.‍[70] According to Hirsch’s description in a letter to her mother, in the courtyard in front of Pasteur’s house and in the little room in which he received his patients were “all the wolf-bitten, dog-bitten and cat-bitten, among them a whole bunch of Russian peasants, old men and women, terribly picturesque to look at, Italians, French and all nationalities.”‍[71] The artist was particularly fascinated by the speed with which the vaccinations were administered:

Pasteur appeared in a small doorway to another small room where his assistants stood and injected the poison into the patients; it happened in a moment. . . . We were there gaping together with Zola, whom we spotted in a corner, absorbed in observing the Russians. Naturally, he must be involved in everything modern.‍[72]

Here, Pasteur’s mass-vaccination event transforms into a different kind of modern spectacle, the sight of which the Swedish artist shared with Zola, united in their fascination for the medical miracle that was unfolding in front of their eyes. In the same letter, Hirsch further mentioned how she had sneaked into the stock exchange: “Venny [Soldan] and I wander around everywhere and the other day we were at the stock exchange. We had been told that no ladies were allowed in there, but it went very well; we got in.”‍[73] Together they watched all the “hustle and fun” that unfolded on the trading floor until they were escorted out by a guard. She closed the letter to her mother with these words: “It must be told because I think it’s part of the matter, isn’t it! In any case, it was fun to see; it doesn’t matter if you get kicked out.”‍[74] Hirsch’s account of her visits to Pasteur’s office and the Parisian stock exchange sheds light on medical and economic aspects of the modern city that stood in marked contrast to the sparkling world of consumer culture, which was often associated with bourgeois women. In contrast, this letter demonstrates that Hirsch sneaked into spaces, which, based on her class and gender, should have been out of her reach.

During her first winter in Paris, Hirsch regularly visited theaters and the opera and attended concerts, often once or even twice a week, usually in the company of Bonnier. On one of their first visits to a concert, they chose to sit “at the very top of the gallery (1 franc) where all the students usually sit,” being badly surprised by the audience’s improper conduct.‍[75] The concert’s last piece was Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. When a choir of women entered the stage to sing, the crowd “began to bark like dogs, crow like roosters, meow like cats, jokes rained down on them, and I truly believed I had suddenly entered a menagerie, they imitated the animals so well. But it’s disgusting.” Eventually, the conductor refused to proceed and “sat down on a chair, fairly annoyed” until the audience was silent.‍[76]

Normally, the artists’ visits to the theaters proceeded in a more civilized manner. In December 1885 they visited the Théâtre du Gymnase Marie Bell to see Sappho, which was based on the novel by Alphonse Daudet (1840–97). Hirsch commented on the play and the performance of its leading actress, Jane Hading: “I thought it was excellent, although Hading (Sappho) imitates Sarah [Bernhardt] terribly. . . . It’s a pity that the French actors have to be so mannered. Eva [Bonnier] howled terribly when Sappho lay down and rolled around on the floor.”‍[77]

A few weeks later, Hirsch eventually saw the famous Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923) on stage in Victor Hugo’s (1802­–85) play Marion de Lorme, writing about it as follows: “Sarah was herself, only a little hoarse, weak, and she had a cold, or so it seemed; but whether she did it on purpose, I don’t know. However, I liked her more than I did at home, she didn’t make so much noise. She really is terribly moving.”‍[78] Coming from a culturally sophisticated family of music publishers, it is barely surprising that Hirsch offered in her letters detailed descriptions of her visits to the Parisian theaters, commenting on their architecture, ticket prices, seating, and audience as well as evaluating the performances of the musicians, actors, and singers and comparing them with their Stockholm equivalents. In a letter to her sister from January 1886, she eventually had to admit that her frequent leisure activities were noticeable in her cashbook: “I have been to the theater twice and spent so much money that now it’s getting really crazy; I have to start cutting back on expenses.”‍[79] In March, she reported that she had listened to Charles Gounod’s (1818–93) Faust at the Paris Opera, together with a group of Nordic artist friends, describing how during the breaks they “ran down to the foyer and out onto the large balcony illuminated by electric light,” marveling at the “dazzling light effects toward the inside of the foyer which is entirely draped in gold and equipped with an enormous array of gas chandeliers.”‍[80] While the performance did not vary significantly from what Hirsch had already witnessed in Stockholm, it was the architectural backdrop and her encounter with grand-scale electric lightning that left a much more profound impression.‍[81]

In contrast to her frequent theater reviews, Hirsch commented only occasionally on exhibitions and works by other artists. In November 1885, she mentioned a visit, together with the Swedish sculptor Carolina Benedicks (1856–1935), to the Panthéon where they admired the frescoes by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824–98) and Jean-Paul Laurens (1838–1921).‍[82] They also looked at “all the wreaths piled up everywhere, in honor of Victor Hugo [who had passed away in May 1885]. There was an immense quantity, so much so that even on the stairs, there were plenty of them.”‍[83] Afterward they visited a nearby church, probably Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, which was “one of the oldest in Paris, delightfully beautiful.”‍[84] The two Jewish women from Protestant Sweden beheld the religious practice in the Catholic church with some amusement: “So they go and buy a wax candle, place it in front of their saint, then they sit on a stool and look devout. It’s really amusing to watch.”‍[85]

figure 9
Fig. 9, Eva Bonnier, À mon amie Hanna H. (To My Friend, Hanna H.), 1886. Pencil on paper. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the owner, taken by the author.

In March 1886, Hirsch planned to attend the arrival of the artworks on the final day of submission to the Salon, noting in the correspondence with her sister: “Tomorrow, one will probably meet several acquaintances and well-known figures at the Palais de l’Industrie, where everyone has access to see all the rubbish that is delivered to be judged for the Salon.”‍[86] On the opening day of the Salon, accompanied by Georg Pauli (1855–1935), Hirsch wore a fashionable new dress with matching hat and gloves. To document her new look, she asked Bonnier to produce a drawing that she included in the letter (fig. 9) to her sister.‍[87]

In April, the artist gave an admiring account of the memorial exposition of the French painter Paul Baudry (1828–86) at the École des Beaux-Arts, which she described as “the most beautiful” exhibition she yet had seen in Paris: “I cannot imagine something more sublime, more soulful, despite its somewhat old-fashioned colors. . . . There is something grand in his art; reminiscent of Michelangelo (whom he also copied) and yet there is something modern and French about it.”‍[88] In another letter, she mentioned plans to visit an exhibition with works by Jean-François Millet (1814–75) and Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier (1815–91).‍[89] While Hirsch repeatedly expressed her admiration for this older generation of French artists, she never commented on the impressionists. Like many Swedish artists in Paris, she adhered to a more conservative aesthetic while at the same time drawing inspiration from French naturalism and plein-air painting.‍[90]

Painting Outdoors: From the Tuileries Garden to the Forest of Fontainebleau

In the spring of 1886, Hirsch reported repeatedly on her plein-air painting activities in the parks of Paris, stating in the correspondence with her sister:

Today, after breakfast, I went to Ingeborg W.’s [Westfelt’s] place and we went to the Tuileries Garden with our paint boxes. . . . It’s completely green now, almost too much, especially at the beginning because the greenery is so vivid and monotonous in color, but it evens out after a few days. I painted a small sketch—nothing outstanding. Just imagine sitting in the most central part of Paris, in such a popular place, and yet being so little disturbed. We also found a good spot in the corner of a latticed gate. But I don’t think it would work in Stockholm.‍[91]

The artist included a quickly drawn pencil sketch in her letter, depicting the view from the park onto a nearby bridge across the Seine (fig. 10). Below the sketch she wrote: “This is the motif—You cannot see so much of it.” She further remarked that she had “lost a card with permission from the state to sit and paint anywhere here in Paris, but I can easily get a new one.”‍[92] Her ability to paint undisturbed in the urban outdoors indicates that women painters were a fairly frequent presence in public spaces across Paris. Watercolors and oil studies by Swedish women artists, such as Jenny Nyström’s (1854–1946) A Woman Walking in Paris (fig. 11) and Elisabeth Keyser’s (1851–98) Reading Woman, Meudon (fig. 12), further support the notion that plein-air painting was a common practice among female art students in Paris and its surroundings.

figure 10
Fig. 10, Hanna Hirsch, Page from a letter to Betty Hirsch, April 9, 1886. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the owner, taken by the author.
figure 11
Fig. 11, Jenny Nyström, A Woman Walking in Paris, 1884. Watercolor on paper. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Anna Danielsson / Nationalmuseum.
figure 12
Fig. 12, Elisabeth Keyser, Reading Woman, Meudon, 1886. Oil on canvas. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Anna Danielsson / Nationalmuseum.

On the weekends, Hirsch repeatedly made trips to the countryside in the company of other Swedish women painters. In March 1886 they traveled to the village of Sceaux, located on the outskirts of Paris, and flooded by the city’s residents on the weekends. The artists visited the popular tree-house café Au Grand Robinson, built in “large trees, where one walks up and feels at home. There, we sat and drank coffee, looked at the view and drew everything, while it was raining.”‍[93] A few weeks later, Hirsch traveled to Meudon, accompanied by Soldan. During this trip, she executed two studies in watercolor, which she then enclosed in a letter to her sister:

I painted one while we had lunch down by the shore; there are plenty of restaurants designed for pleasure-seekers with small pavilions by the Seine. The other motif I did hastily in the forest before we went to the station. One can have a sense of the beauty of nature by looking at it, isn’t that true! Don’t show them outside the house! . . . We traveled home by train; it was so enjoyable, and we got there by boat.‍[94]

figure 13
Fig. 13, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, Portrait of Georg Pauli, 1886. Oil on canvas. Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Lars Engelhardt / Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde.

In mid-May, following Pauli’s invitation, Hirsch traveled to Barbizon, where she spent a few weeks painting his portrait. The artwork captured her colleague and future husband in a nonchalant pose, seated by a window and holding a walking stick (fig. 13). In the nearby village of Chailly, the artist made the acquaintance of a countrywoman, who was “as old and ugly as the street, but with a fun and humorous face and adorned in the French picturesque attire.”‍[95] In a letter to her sister, Hirsch detailed the challenges she faced in developing a pose both authentic and unique for her newly found model:

The unfortunate part is that I am “searching” for motifs, which you should never do, but it’s impossible to resist. For instance, when I arrived at the cottage, the old woman was sitting inside, placing a few sticks in the open oven; it looked splendid, yet it resembled so much the compositions in another painter’s canvas. And another pose reminded me of another, and so on.‍[96]

A few days later, the initial sympathy for her peasant model gave way to a growing aversion, and Hirsch began expressing dissatisfaction with her sitter: “I had a terrible headache after my work trying to get the old lady to pose and look happy. She probably wanted to, but she’s a little loopy and kept humming the same tune all the time, which made me sick. She would probably sit there until she died if I asked her to.”‍[97] Such harsh statements, which reflect the artist’s feelings of resentment and superiority, reveal a distinct hierarchy between painter and model. Hirsch eventually gave up on painting the countrywoman, whom she considered mentally unstable, focusing instead on painting landscape studies in the forest of Fontainebleau in the company of fellow painter Anders Zorn (1860–1920) and his wife Emma Zorn (née Lamm), who was one of Hirsch’s relatives.‍[98] Hirsch was captivated by the nature surrounding Barbizon, in particular the rocks that she described as “great, desolate and glorious.”‍[99]

figure 14
Fig. 14, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, Breakfast Time, 1887. Oil on canvas. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Nationalmuseum.

Hirsch’s letters reveal that painting outdoors in Parisian parks or the countryside was a recurring pursuit throughout her residency in France, a practice that is unfortunately untraceable in her art due to the absence of sketchbooks, drawings, watercolors, and similar documentation originating during this period of her career. However, the painting Breakfast Time, which Hirsch painted in the garden of her family’s residence in the Stockholm archipelago in the summer of 1887, after her return to Sweden, clearly shows the impact of plein-air painting on her own painting practice (fig. 14). Here, the artist drew inspiration from the impressionists’ technique of suggesting volume and depth by means of colored light and shadow. This approach results in the tablecloth, the still life, and the surrounding foliage dissolving into radiant light reflections, turning Breakfast Time into Hirsch’s most radical painting in terms of technique.

At the Académie Colarossi

Shortly after her arrival in Paris in October 1885, Hirsch enrolled at the Académie Colarossi, which, together with the Académie Julian, was the leading private art academy in the city and particularly popular among Nordic artists. In her correspondence, she argued that her Swedish colleagues had recommended the school because it was much less expensive and offered greater freedom and more frequent lessons as well as better teachers than the Académie Julian, where “those run who want their works in the Salon, because the old men there are in the jury!”‍[100] During her first weeks at the Académie Colarossi, Hirsch took her classes in the atelier at 10, rue de la Grande Chaumière, located near her accommodations on the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. At first, Hirsch visited the atelier only in the mornings, spending the afternoons exploring the city.‍[101] She noted that the entire family of the founder of the atelier, Filippo Colarossi, was present at the school and that the walls were covered with studies by students and alumni.‍[102] Her teachers were the French painters Raphaël Collin (1850–1916) and Gustave Courtois (1852–1923), who came to correct students’ work several times a week.‍[103] Hirsch wrote positively about her teachers, and described in detail their appearance and manners. For example, she praised Collin’s good character and contrasted his modesty to the eccentricity of other successful Salon painters:

Collin is very simple, no nonsense or pretension in his behavior, although he is known as a great artist. And that is probably unusual, I think most renowned artists become like [Mihály] Munkácsy, [Hans] Makart and so forth. We have a Hungarian . . . who usually goes up and shows her masterpieces to Munkácsy and she talks about all the scenic effects and devices that he has.‍[104]

A few weeks later, Hirsch enthusiastically summed up Courtois’s corrections: “Courtois flies through the studio, but the brief glance he casts at one’s work is so sharp and penetrating that one becomes completely helpless.”‍[105]

Hirsch not only participated in the classes for women on the upper floor of the building but, along with two female students, also visited “the costume session downstairs with the gentlemen,” where she painted a “priest . . . a very handsome fellow,” adding that she had been singing a lot in the atelier, “accompanied by the voices of the gentlemen, cheers, and the like (coming from the studio next door).”‍[106] Anecdotes such as this indicate that Hirsch was an unusually extroverted and self-confident student. In another letter, she noted that it was very enjoyable to paint alongside her male peers, “because most of the gentlemen are so handsome, in particular the Spaniards.”‍[107] She was impressed by the cosmopolitan atmosphere in the gentlemen’s studio, where men of different European nationalities, as well as Americans and Japanese, were present.‍[108] After a couple of weeks in the atelier, Hirsch mentioned with pride that as a painter she was repeatedly referred to as forte (strong) by her male classmates, an attribute that was assigned to the Swedish students in particular.‍[109] At the same time, she acknowledged that the reason why the Swedish women were admired for their skills was that most of them “had been allowed to study at an academy for several years, practicing every day,” in contrast to their female peers from other countries, who were for the most part restricted to more irregular private teaching.‍[110]

At the end of November 1885, Hirsch began to visit the new premises of the Académie Colarossi on 43, avenue Victor Hugo. There, the classes were less crowded and the rooms were brighter, although, in contrast to the atelier on the other side of the Seine, female students were not allowed to participate in the classes in the gentlemen’s department.‍[111] But the greatest appeal was the teaching of Dagnan-Bouveret, who was exceptionally popular among his students. In January 1886, Hirsch remarked in a letter to her sister: “I have committed myself for a longer period to the studio here and I am satisfied with it because I increasingly appreciate my teachers, especially Dagnan; he is definitely the best man, he cares so much about his students.”‍[112]

During her second winter in Paris, Hirsch received guidance from both Collin and Dagnan-Bouveret while she was painting the portrait of Soldan, and their influence as members of the Salon jury played a role in securing the work’s acceptance and its prominent location at the Salon in 1887.‍[113]

In the letters to her sister, Hirsch also commented with some irony on the high turnover of students at the Académie Colarossi, offering the following description of her fellow classmates:

New ones are coming almost every week, and others are leaving. Many wives are said to be here, mostly Americans who have traveled away from their husbands or whose husbands are dead. . . . Some French women are here, including three Parisians who cannot come on the days that the teachers are here—slim waists in silk, powder and velvet; a 17-year-old innocent girl who says she will get married next year and makes up lies at home to slip away with us to the restaurant, something I do not allow her to do. Otherwise, she is sweet and as good as she can be with such an upbringing. They draw for the most part after photographic portraits of young men with black mustaches and tilted hats. . . . There are amusing characters here, believe me.‍[114]

Hirsch made a clear distinction between herself and the French bourgeois women attending classes at the atelier, suggesting that the latter did not take their studies as seriously as the foreign students while at the same time were being denied the liberty of enjoying the company of their peers outside the classroom. The phrase “as good as she can be with such an upbringing” can also be read in the context of Bashkirtseff’s words, “what I long for is the freedom . . . without which one cannot become a real artist,” demonstrating that Hirsch, too, believed that the social restrictions imposed upon a female art student affected her ability to achieve her full artistic potential.

During Hirsch’s first winter at the academy she established a close friendship with Venny Soldan, a colleague her same age. The conversations and intellectual exchanges between the two women had a decisive influence on Hirsch’s views about artistic matters and the development of her professional identity:

I have a great desire to work, and I have noticed that nothing can draw me away from it, although it can go more joyfully or heavily; but when I start, I forget everything else. So, I have reasoned a lot about how one should behave in relation to art and work, and I have come to think of so many genuinely true things—and I believe that much of it is thanks to Venny [Soldan], she has given me so many useful moralizing lectures that have really cheered me up when I have been sad.‍[115]

Comparing the atmosphere at the Académie Colarossi with the environment at the art academy in her home country, Hirsch noticed that art was treated “less timidly and ceremoniously” at the Parisian art school, one example of which was the unconstrained behavior of the models:

Here, models don’t run behind a screen to put on a shirt but rather converse and warm themselves in front of the stove. It goes so far (at least I think it is far-reaching, but it depends on custom) that women “pose” even when they have their periods; the other day, they didn’t want the girl to have a towel at once, but she finally got it. However, I know they stand without it and sometimes with a cloth, for the gentlemen at the École des Beaux-Arts, then it [menstrual blood] can run down the legs; it’s taken so naturally. Even men and women work together here from the nude model.‍[116]

In contrast to the academy in Stockholm, where male and female students studied in separate classes and where models in the women’s department were partially draped, artists of both sexes were working side by side after nude models at the Académie Colarossi. In recent years, scholars of nineteenth-century art have paid increasing attention to the individual identities and life stories of artists’ models as well as their working conditions and social backgrounds.‍[117] Yet, while the female model as an object of the male artist’s desiring gaze is a pervasive trope in art history, we rarely encounter sources that offer a woman artist’s perspective on her encounters with models in the studio, let alone commentary as frank as Hirsch’s about the real bodies of the models and the taboo topic of menstruation in relation to nude modeling. In her letters, Hirsch expressed both admiration for what she perceived as the models’ natural behavior and amazement over their uninhibitedness in the studio.

La Belle Juive: Hanna Hirsch’s Jewish Identity

The community of models in nineteenth-century Paris consisted mainly of immigrants, the majority of whom came from Italy, and of marginal ethnic groups, such as Jews and Roma.‍[118] As Marie Lathers notes, during the mid-nineteenth century the Jewish woman was regarded as “the epitome of the model,” and the belle Juive (beautiful Jewish woman) symbolized an ideal beauty that contributed to the era’s fascination with the Orientale (Oriental woman).‍[119]

As a Jewish woman and a member of the upper-middle class, Hirsch occupied an ambiguous position at the Académie Colarossi. She found herself in a racial quandary, occupying a “space between” being perceived, and perceiving herself, as white and as Jewish.‍[120] In terms of her class affiliation, she was far removed from the models of working- or lower-class backgrounds, but in terms of her Jewish identity, she experienced an unusual sense of kinship with a Mizrahi Jewish model at the school:

At the moment, we have a Jew from Algiers, a poor and curious old man, who only speaks Spanish and has his own costume, a very picturesque, Oriental one. So, this time at least, we don’t have a dressed-up model. The ladies in the studio are very kind to him, they give him food and plan to collect money for him. He has so many gestures of secret understanding with me. It’s going quite well with painting this week.‍[121]

Although we will never know for certain whether the model actually made the gestures Hirsch refers to, or, if he did make them, whether or how she responded, this anecdote is an example of how gender, class, and ethnicity intersected and shaped social interactions in the atelier. In the same letter, Hirsch told her sister about a dispute with a fellow student at the Académie Colarossi, the Polish sculptor Teofila Certowicz (1862–1918), which had left her angry and saddened: “The other evening, I also had a quarrel with my Polish friend regarding Jews. I believe she didn’t quite realize that I was Jewish, but, in any case, she began to bad-mouth them and either did not believe or did not want to believe that I was one.”‍[122] Such reflections on her Jewish identity, caused by the encounter with a North African Jewish model or forced upon her by means of the anti-Semitic comments of a fellow student, demonstrate that for Hirsch, whiteness was an unstable category.‍[123] As an Ashkenazi Jew coming from a well-to-do family, she was capable of fitting easily into the dominant, white Christian culture of the atelier, until the moment she was faced with a sense of difference. Only by employing an intersectional approach can we understand that Hirsch’s position oscillated between one of inclusion and one of exclusion.

Hirsch’s Jewish identity not only was significant in terms of how she interacted with models and fellow students at the Académie Colarossi but also affected her role in the Swedish expatriate community of artists in Paris. Reporting from a gathering in the restaurant Maison Moll, also called Molle, which was a central meeting place for the Swedes in Montparnasse, she commented on the rude conduct of fellow Jewish-Swedish artist Ernst Josephson (1851–1906):

Eva [Bonnier] thinks that he [Josephson] wants to marry a wealthy girl if he can find one, but in that case, he foolishly prepared the matter by shouting and talking about one’s future fortune. “You’re a millionaire,” “a rich Jewish girl,” “I wonder what you’ll get in dowry—probably just a couple of old pianos,” he told me. “Be calm, I don’t want you anyway,” I said. Then, of course, he became angry.‍[124]

In offending his friend and colleague by referring to stereotypes about the economic power of Jews, Josephson’s comments reveal an internalized anti-Semitism.‍[125] Hirsch further mentioned that Bonnier eventually invited her colleagues for a glass of champagne, adding: “but don’t talk about it [the drinking of champagne], or read it aloud, she doesn’t want that. She thinks it sounds extravagant; but it was Joseph’s fault, he flaunts her money.”‍[126] Josephson’s improper conduct reveals the ambivalent perception of these well-to-do, Jewish women artists, who were judged and discriminated against not only on the basis of their gender but also in relation to their class status and their Jewish identities.

Hirsch’s and Bonnier’s interaction with their male colleagues resembled a balancing act between their pursuit to become respected members of the urban artists’ colony and their need to protect their bourgeois feminine respectability. They felt uncomfortable when being exposed to the “frivolous jargon” of their male peers, especially since they were aware, as Hirsch noted, that the male colleagues “don’t like it when ladies find such things amusing, even though they want them to listen to them without prudery.”‍[127]

Owing to their professional pursuits, the roles of the women painters in the Nordic artistic community differed from the domestic roles assigned to the wives of their male colleagues. After having been invited to the Parisian home of her colleague and friend Richard Bergh (1858–1919) and his wife Helena, Hirsch noted in a letter to her sister: “Helena prepared the meal while Dick [Richard Bergh] and I indulged in discussions about art, ideas, zeitgeist and morals.”‍[128] This seemingly casual remark reveals her desire to distance herself from the married women in her Parisian-Swedish circle by underscoring her artistic identity. In more explicitly derogatory terms, Hirsch noted after having visited the Salon with Anders and Emma Zorn: “He [Anders] can cast an approving glance at some well-executed painting of a damsel after seeking Emma’s permission and hearing her opinion, and she is so decisive about art, although I don’t find her critique particularly insightful.”‍[129] On several occasions, Hirsch discredited Emma Zorn’s judgments in artistic matters, stating, for instance: “Emma was getting a little tiresome with her art criticism.”‍[130]

In contrast, winning the recognition of her male peers, particularly those whose work she admired, held great importance for Hirsch. In November 1885, she informed her sister that Nils Kreuger (1858–1930), renowned for his “delightful . . . evocative twilight scenes from the streets of Paris,” had given her two of his studies, with the understanding that she reciprocate.‍[131] The following day, Hirsch continued her letter during a break from work in the atelier, noting that she was about to complete the study of a “delightful nude from the back against a yellow background,” aiming to give it to Kreuger as a return gift, adding: “I will try to make it very good, simple and bright so that Dagnan[-Bouveret] will be satisfied.”‍[132]

Hirsch’s correspondence further suggests that she was a sought-after model, regularly receiving requests to sit for her Swedish artist friends: “So, I’ve promised Dick [Richard Bergh] to make a sketch of me with my lorgnette and everything, but I’ve promised that to so many [Georg] Pauli, Bob [Robert Thegerström], etc.”‍[133] On a Sunday in April 1886, she modeled for Bergh, Pauli, and Josephson, writing to her mother: “Josephson complained about how they painted me so decently, hanging on a chair; he said I should place my arms high above my head, and Dick wanted me to lie on the floor. However, it turned into mostly fun that day.”‍[134] Pauli was the sole artist to complete his oil sketch, portraying Hirsch in a black dress against a dusky background, her gaze fixed into the distance behind bespectacled eyes (fig. 15).‍[135] In contrast to Pauli’s more severe portrayal, Thegerström painted on another occasion a pastel in light colors, in which he depicted his artist friend in elegant profile and in the role of a fashionable Parisienne (fig. 16).

figure 15
Fig. 15, Georg Pauli, Portrait of Hanna Hirsch, 1886. Oil on cardboard. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the owner, © Lars Engelhardt / Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm.
figure 16
Fig. 16, Robert Thegerström, Portrait of Hanna Hirsch, 1886. Pastel on paper. Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Lars Engelhardt / Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm.
figure 17
Fig. 17, Richard Bergh, Hypnotic Séance, 1887. Oil on canvas. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Viktor Fordell / Nationalmuseum.

In the spring of 1887, Bergh employed Hirsch as a model for his multifigured genre painting Hypnotic Séance (fig. 17), in which she plays the role of an observer, staring in amazement at a woman who is being hypnotized. The painting, which was exhibited in the Salon of 1887, is a vivid testimony to the growing interest in the human subconscious in this period, and as such, heralds the transition from naturalism to symbolism in Nordic art. The composition is characterized by a marked contrast between the whiteness of the pale and red-haired female patient in her white garment, leaning against a white pillow, and the black-clad, dark-haired Jewish hypnotist and his attendants, including Hirsch, who embody otherness by means of their Oriental appearance. In 1887 Bergh remarked self-critically that “the man, who is hypnotizing, looks more like an old-school hypnotist, part artist, part quacksalver, like a charlatan, and not at all like a modern physician.”‍[136] When the genre scene was exhibited in Sweden later that year, the more-or-less explicitly anti-Semitic reviews of the painting were likewise directed at the hypnotist, who, according to the conservative critic Carl Rupert Nyblom, “looked like some Jewish quacksalver with black corkscrew curls.”‍[137] This statement resonates with the anti-Semitic notion that Jewishness is associated with mountebankery, the antirational and ultimately the antimodern. Bergh, however, stated that he was content with some aspects of the work, which, from his perspective, possessed a “truthful, human characteristic.” He concluded that the “best part of the picture” was the “young medical lady with the surprised, lively interested expression,” adding that she is in fact “a young painter who naturally looks that way—that expression never leaves her.”‍[138]

figure 18
Fig. 18, Unknown artist, “Hanna Hirsch,” Idun: Praktisk veckotidning för kvinnan och hemmet, April 4, 1880, 1. Artwork in the public domain; image courtesy of KvinnSam, Gothenburg University Library.

The interest of Hirsch’s colleagues in portraying her and employing her as a model in compositions in which she was supposed to represent otherness further supports the argument that, as a consequence of her Jewishness, she occupied an ambiguous position, both in the atelier and in the artistic community. In 1890, Carl Larsson (1853–1919), who was notorious for his misogynist opinions, was invited to write about the by now married Hirsch-Pauli for the Swedish women’s journal Idun (fig. 18). Larsson described his colleague as “our most talented female painter,” noting that the cover image of the periodical revealed that Hirsch was “a beautiful Jewess.” He returned several times in the text to Hirsch’s Jewish heritage, stating that she had been “Germanized through civil marriage” with her colleague, the Protestant Pauli.‍[139] Thus, in both the artworks and the writings of her colleagues, Hirsch is portrayed as a belle Juive, her charismatic features aligning with the prevailing fascination for the Orientale.‍[140]


During her first year in Paris, Hirsch prioritized engaging in the leisure activities offered by the modern metropolis over her professional development as an artist. This contradicts the notion put forward in previous research that Nordic women artists were diligent students, spending most of their time working at the private academies or in their studios, in contrast to their more independent male peers, who were able to enjoy their sojourn abroad without any institutionalized constraints.

While in my previous scholarship I have identified the studio as the most formative space for Nordic women painters in Paris, Hirsch’s letters suggest that the city itself also played a significant role as a space of emancipation. While the studio became a room of her own, the anonymity in the streets of the foreign metropolis offered similar experiences of independence and freedom. In her epistolary writing, Hirsch describes Paris from the perspective of a flâneuse, capturing the transient essence of its life, its vast scale, its endless opportunities, its constant development and shifting views, and ultimately the sense of freedom that anonymity within its crowds offered, even to women, enabling her sister and mother to vividly reexperience her encounters with the city. The artist embraced flânerie as a subversive means of partaking in modern urban life.

During her second winter in Paris, Hirsch devoted her time more purposefully to her art, painting the portrait of her friend Soldan as a sculptor (see fig. 2) and finishing it just in time for submission to the Salon in the spring of 1887.‍[141] As I noted in 2021, the portrait broke with decorum in its uncompromisingly radical naturalism and its staging of Soldan as a worker-artist, seated on the studio floor with her hands dirty from work.‍[142] In her letters, Hirsch challenged conventional femininity just as boldly as she did in her painting, chronicling her daily encounters with the city—from gazing at the cocottes on the boulevards to watching brokers on the trading floor of the stock exchange—in spaces widely perceived to be beyond the reach of bourgeois women. The frank tone of her writing is not only compelling but without parallel in letters of late nineteenth-century women art students in Paris.

In the realm of her private correspondence, Hirsch was able to fashion herself as both an observer and an agent in public space, in a manner that painting, intended for exhibitions and henceforth public scrutiny, did not afford to a woman of her social background. Engaging in modern life in Paris and sharing that experience with her sister and mother was already a crossing of boundaries, but to turn the same experience into the subject of a painting would most likely have caused irreparable damage to Hirsch’s reputation. She would have immediately lost the protection that the anonymity of the crowds and the privacy of letters had offered. More importantly, Hirsch’s primary aim as an art student in Paris was to create a work that would be accepted by the jury of the Salon. Painting a naturalist interior scene, such as the portrait of Soldan at work in the studio, proved to be a key to success. In doing so, Hirsch employed a strategy similar to that of the majority of Nordic artists active in Paris at the time.‍[143]

By employing an intersectional approach, this analysis of Hirsch’s correspondence has further demonstrated how her status as a foreigner, as well as her gender, class, and Jewish identities, intersected with and shaped her relationships with models, fellow students, and the Swedish artistic community in Paris. Hirsch’s letters, other written sources, and paintings depicting the artist together show that she occupied a “space between” her Jewish heritage and the dominant, Christian culture, leading her Swedish colleagues to objectify and Orientalize her as a belle Juive.


All translations, unless otherwise noted, are my own.

[1] Temma Balducci and Heather Belnap Jensen, eds., Women, Femininity and Public Space in European Visual Culture, 1789–1914 (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014); and Temma Balducci, Gender, Space and the Gaze in Post-Haussmann Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 2017). Most relevant for this article is the work by Balducci and Jensen, but the art historical literature on women as actors and spectators in the public sphere in nineteenth-century Paris is of course vast. See, for example, Wendelin Ann Guentner, ed., Women Art Critics in Nineteenth-Century France: Vanishing Acts (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2013); Heidi Brevik-Zender, ed., Fashioning Spaces: Mode and Modernity in Late-Nineteenth-Century Paris (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015); Elizabeth Emery, Reframing Japonisme: Women and the Asian Art Market in Nineteenth-Century France, 1853–1914 (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2020); Véronique Teboul-Bonnet, Collections au féminin: Du salon privé au musée (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2022); and Julie Bertrand, ed., Sarah Bernhardt: Et la femme créa la star (Paris: Paris-Musées, 2023).

[2] Cheryll A. May and Marian Wardle, eds., A Seamless Web: Transatlantic Art in the Nineteenth Century (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2014); Karen L. Carter and Susan Waller, eds., Foreign Artists and Communities in Modern Paris, 1870–1914: Strangers in Paradise (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2015); Laurence Madeline, ed., Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 (New York: American Federation of Arts, 2017); Elizabeth Doe Stone, “Relocating Anders Zorn’s ‘Ice Skater’,” Burlington Magazine 161, no. 1392 (March 2019): 214–21; Vibeke Röstorp, “Third Culture Artists: Scandinavians in Paris,” in Imagined Cosmopolis: Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s, ed. Charlotte Ashby, Grace Brockington, Daniel Laqua, and Sarah Victoria Turner (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2019), 165–84; Emily C. Burns and Alice M. Rudy Price, eds., Mapping Impressionist Painting in Transnational Contexts (New York: Routledge, 2021); Mary Kelly, French Women Orientalist Artists, 1861–1956: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Depictions of Difference (London: Routledge, 2021); Richard D. Sonn, Modernist Diaspora: Immigrant Jewish Artists in Paris, 1900–1945 (London: Bloomsbury, 2022); Caroline Shields, ed., Cassatt – McNicoll: Impressionists between Worlds, exh. cat. (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2023); and Vibeke Waallann Hansen and Tove Haugsbø, eds., Harriet Backer: Every Atom is Colour (Munich: Hirmer, 2023).

[3] Employing an intersectional feminist approach in the context of this analysis means to “complicate gender” by exploring the multiple dimensions of Hirsch’s experience and acknowledging that she wrote from a “subject position located in intersectional in-between spaces between monolithic and normative categorizations.” Nina Lykke, ed., Writing Academic Texts Differently: Intersectional Feminist Methodologies and the Playful Art of Writing (London: Routledge, 2014), 5, 23. See also Jessica Greenebaum, “Placing Jewish Women into the Intersectionality of Race, Class and Gender,” Race, Gender and Class 6, no. 4 (1999): 41–60, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41674909 [login required]. Previous research on Hanna Hirsch has been dominated by gender-focused feminist approaches that have neglected to examine the impact of her Jewish identity on her art, in fact turning her Jewishness into a blind spot, with the following exception: Katarina Wadstein MacLeod, “Disrupted Perspectives: Interpreting ‘Friends’ by Hanna Hirsch-Pauli,” Konsthistorisk tidskrift / Journal of Art History 80, no. 3 (2011): 383–433, https://doi.org/10.1080/00233609.2011.593718 [login required]. In the Swedish context, Soussloff’s conviction that topics related to Jewishness are underrepresented in art history still holds true. Catherine M. Soussloff, “Introducing Jewish Identity to Art History,” in Jewish Identity in Modern Art History, ed. Catherine M. Soussloff (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 2. When studying how Hirsch’s Jewish identity shaped her experience as an art student in Paris, both inside the Nordic artistic community and at the Académie Colarossi, I follow Kaplan and Rubin, who understand Jews as a “socio-historical race” in the sense of a socially constructed category with a shared history and descent, creating a common cultural reality that is integral to Jews’ self-image and social identity. Steven Kaplan, “If There Are No Races, How Can Jews Be a ‘Race’?,” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 2, no. 1 (2003): 79–96, https://doi.org/10.1080/14725880305901 [login required]; and Daniel Ian Rubin, “Hebcrit: A New Dimension of Critical Race Theory,” Social Identities 26, no. 4 (2020): 504–5, https://doi.org/10.1080/13504630.2020.1773778 [login required].

[4] I had previously adopted this view myself, stating that “the lure of the Parisian metropolis was based on the professional possibilities that it offered. Nordic women artists who came to Paris in the 1880s, were ‘career migrants’ with a rigorous work ethic. They embraced the city’s established art institutions, the private academies and the Salon, and pursued their training with great commitment within these regulated spaces.” Carina Rech, Becoming Artists: Self-Portraits, Friendship Images and Studio Scenes by Nordic Women Painters in the 1880s (Gothenburg: Makadam, 2021), 33, https://www.diva-portal.org/. Waallann Hansen has recently claimed that the letters and diaries of Nordic women artists “testify that they often worked from morning to evening, and then used their spare time to visit the Louvre or other venues of art.” Vibeke Waallann Hansen, “Female Artists in the Nordic Countries: Training and Professionalization,” in Madeline, Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900, 69–81. See also Margareta Gynning, “Paris—självförverkligandets stad,” in De drogo till Paris: Nordiska konstnärinnor på 1880-talet, ed. Lollo Fogelström and Louise Robbert, exh. cat. (Stockholm: Liljevalchs Konsthall, 1988), 30–31; and Margareta Gynning, Det ambivalenta perspektivet: Eva Bonnier och Hanna Hirsch-Pauli i 1880-talets konstliv (Stockholm: Bonnier, 1999), 123, 127–30. In the Finnish context, Marja Lahelma has recently, if only briefly, discussed the impact that the “bohemian atmosphere” had on Helene Schjerfbeck’s life in Paris in the 1880s, building on Riitta Konttinen’s discussion of sketchbooks including depictions of various Parisian types. Marja Lahelma, Helene Schjerfbeck: An Artist’s Life (Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery; Ateneum Art Museum, 2023), 52. Konttinen had previously described Schjerfbeck as a “flâneuse, who observed the bustling crowd on the boulevards, the life and people of the big city, their faces, their manner of walking, the whole atmosphere that she found so sophisticated.” Riitta Konttinen, Oma tie: Helene Schjerfbeckin elämä (Helsinki: Otava, 2004), 70. So far, however, no study has examined the movement of a female art student across the space of Paris, focusing on her experience of modern life as a primary subject of inquiry.

[5] In my previous analysis of the portrait of Venny Soldan, I employed Virginia Woolf’s concept of “a room of one’s own” to highlight the crucial importance of the studio, both in practical and metaphorical terms, for Nordic women painters’ professionalization in the 1880s. Rech, Becoming Artists, 217–55; and Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (London: Hogarth Press, 1929).

[6] Carl Henrik Carlsson, Judarnas historia i Sverige (Stockholm: Natur & Kultur, 2021), 116.

[7] On Jewish contributions to Swedish cultural life, see Gunnar Broberg, “De judiska vännerna: Judiska bidrag till kulturlivet i sekelskiftets Sverige,” in Judiskt liv i Norden, ed. Gunnar Broberg, Harald Runblom, and Mattias Tydén (Uppsala: Uppsala University, 1988), 223–41.

[8] The canonical text about the formation of the Opponents is Sixten Strömbom, Konstnärsförbundets historia I: Till och med 1890 (Stockholm: Bonnier, 1945). For a concise history of the movement and its central artists, see Michele Facos, “Swedish Artists in Paris,” chap. 1 in Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination: Swedish Art of the 1890s (London: University of California Press, 1998), 7–26.

[9] In previous research, writers have claimed erroneously that the guesthouse was located at 77, rue d’Enfer and was reserved for women, but Hirsch mentions guests of both sexes. Gynning, Det ambivalenta perspektivet, 128.

[10] Rech, Becoming Artists, 217–55.

[11] The letters are often long and written on several sheets of paper, at times over the course of two or three days.

[12] All letters cited below by and to Hanna Hirsch belong to the same private archive, if not otherwise indicated. The author wishes to thank the owner for providing generous access to the epistolary material. Only two letters to Betty Hirsch from Paris have previously been published, as excerpts in Agneta Pauli, ed., Cher monsieur—fatala qvinna: En utställning om konstnärsvännerna Hanna och Georg Pauli samt Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, exh. cat. (Stockholm: Judiska Museet, 2009). While the letters’ original orthography has been retained in the Swedish transcriptions, false spellings of names or phrases in French have been corrected in the English translation.

[13] “Annars brukar jag skrifva på Söndag qväll och skicka af det måndagen.” (Normally, I write on Sunday evenings and post [the letter] on Mondays.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, March 1, 1886. Further comments on Hirsch’s writing practice suggest that she addressed her letters alternately to her mother and sister: “Jag skrifver till dig nu igen emedan jag sist fått bref från dig. Och det blir mammas tur nästa gång.” (I write to you now, since I last received a letter from you. And it will be mom’s turn next time.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 14, 1885.

[14] “Dels skrifver jag hvarenda dugg hem, och till dig allt, och dig känner jag mest, och vet att du förstår mig lätt.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 15, 1885.

[15] “jag bara känner att det finns ingen i verlden, som kan ersätta mig dig.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 14, 1885.

[16] Hanna mentioned that she read her sister Betty’s letters aloud to Gerda Hagborg and that Eva Bonnier read aloud letters she received from her sister Jenny Bonnier. On one occasion, Betty forwarded to Hanna a letter written to Betty by Emma Zorn. See Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 5, 1885; and Hanna to Betty Hirsch, February 4, 1886.

[17] Two examples of this type of instruction: “Detta behöfver du ej tala om eller läsa upp.” (You don’t have to talk about this or read aloud.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 24, 1885. “Ty min sinnesstämning har den sista tiden ej varit den bästa och jag har så svårt att skrifva . . . om sådant som du ej vill eller bör läsa upp. . . . Men jag vet ju att du vill höra allt om mig och äfven har jag behof att skrifva derom.” (My mood hasn’t been the best recently and I have difficulties expressing myself in writing . . . about such things that you don’t want to or shouldn’t read aloud. . . . But I know of course that you want to hear everything about me and I have an urge myself to write about it.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, February 24, 1886. This letter is marked “(private)” in the upper left corner of the first page.

[18] Betty to Hanna Hirsch, January 30, 1886.

[19] “ofta tänker jag på du kanske underlåter skrifva ett och annat af fruktan att det kommer för någon annans ögon eller öron än mina, men för hundrade gången säger jag nu, var lugn derför . . . , skrif bara som dina tankar gå.” Betty to Hanna Hirsch, January 13, 1886.

[20] See, for example, Hanna to Pauline Hirsch, April 16, 1886.

[21] “Men löjligt är det i alla fall med folks prat om små saker—jag har verkligen kommit mig ifrån att tänka på det nu då ingen säger sådant åt mig, men ibland händer det jag tänker ‘jag undrar hvad de skulle säga hemma derom’ (ej familjen).” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 22, 1886.

[22] “Det tillbörliga lugnet felas henne, hon blir som på nålar i herrsällskap.” Eva Bonnier to her family, November 1, 1886, cited in Margareta Gynning, Pariserbref: Konstnären Eva Bonniers brev 1883–1889 (Stockholm: Klara, 1999), 127.

[23] “Jag får lof att tala om, men i all ‘schtike’ att Hanna lär ha väckt uppseende på julaftonen hos alla, som ej kände henne förut genom sitt nonchalanta, koketta och ‘obundna’ sätt. Låt för all del ej någon af Hs [Hirschs] höra det.” Eva Bonnier to her family, January 4, 1886, cited in Gynning, Pariserbref, 144.

[24] “Af Isidors och andra åsyna vittnens utsaga tycks du vara serdeles lifvad, ja det gör du rätt i och så het att du springer i Paris utan hatt, det kan man kalla ogenerad, men utan att moralisera måste jag uttala den förhoppning att du håller dig inom medelvägens gränser, och inte blir för galen emellanåt.” Betty to Hanna Hirsch, May 4, 1886.

[25] Susan Hiner, Accessories to Modernity: Fashion and the Feminine in Nineteenth-Century France (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 35.

[26] “hanskar [sic] orkar jag ej alltid sätta på mig när jag endast går till atelien [sic] de ligga vanligen i fickan.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, April 8, 1886.

[27] On several occasions in the correspondence, the artist and her family exchange arguments about her excessive spending. See, for example, Hanna to Betty Hirsch, January 25, 1886; Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 12, 1886; and Pauline to Hanna Hirsch, January 17, 1886. In a late interview in 1937, Hanna Hirsch claimed that she used to lead a “hard-working and simple life,” which prompted her father to “feel seriously concerned over the little sums of money [she] asked for.” Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, “Med pensel och palett: Hanna Pauli berättar intressanta hågkomster från 1880-talets konstnärsliv i Stockholm och Paris,” Svensk Damtidning, January 2, 1937, 34.

[28] “Från mamma ett ganska långt bref, deri hon mest ådagalägger sin välvilja och intresse för mig, . . . hon säger sig lefva tyst utan vetskap om den yttre verlden, men i sitt sinne lika intresserad af konst. Den kära människan!” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, January 10, 1886.

[29] Susan Foley, “Becoming a Woman: Self-Fashioning and Emotion in a Nineteenth-Century Family Correspondence,” Women’s History Review 24, no. 2 (2015): 215–33, https://doi.org/10.1080/09612025.2014.948272 [login required].

[30] Meritxell Simon-Martin, “Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon’s Travel Letters: Performative Identity-Formation in Epistolary Narratives,” Women’s History Review 22, no. 2 (2013): 225–38, https://doi.org/10.1080/09612025.2012.726112 [login required].

[31] Meritxell Simon-Martin, Barbara Bodichon’s Epistolary Education: Unfolding Feminism (Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2020), 11–12.

[32] Gynning, Pariserbref. I have published excerpts from the Parisian letters of the Swedish painter Hildegard Thorell (1850–1930) and conducted an analysis of her correspondence with her husband Reinhold and fellow Nordic women artists. Thorell’s correspondence is another valuable primary source that sheds light on the living and working conditions of foreign female artists in Paris. Rech, Becoming Artists; and Carina Rech, “Friendship in Representation: The Collaborative Portraits by Jeanna Bauck and Bertha Wegmann,” RIHA Journal, article no. 0202 (2018), https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/.

[33] Marie Bashkirtseff, Mon Journal, transcribed by Ginette Apostolescu, 17 vols. (Montesson, France: Cercle des Amis de Marie Bashkirtseff, 1995–2005). For an analysis of the diaries, see Sabine Voigt, Die Tagebücher der Marie Bashkirtseff von 1877–1884 (Dortmund: Ebersbach, 1997).

[34] Griselda Pollock, “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity,” chap. 3 in Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism and Histories of Art (London: Routledge, 2003), 98.

[35] “Vet du jag hittar så bra här så jag går alldeles ensam ända från andra sidan Seinen Champs Elysee [sic] och ditåt och hem till, vet hvar spårvagnarne går och allting. Detta naturligtvis endast i de delar jag varit. Idag var jag som hastigast i Luxemburg [sic] som är nära oss, skulpturen var förtjusande, taflorna voro ‘båda delarna’ kände igen dem från salongkatalogen.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 9, 1885.

[36] “jag skulle taga spårvagn en bit så jag kom nära min bostad men jag fick så högt nummer att jag ej brydde mig om att vänta, utan gick hem en ny väg. Det var mörkt, lyktorna var tända, men jag frågade efter gatan. O, det är så roligt att gå ensam, jag känner mig aldrig ängslig. Eva har upptäckt att jag har ett utmärkt lokalsinne, likadant som hennes ‘grundat på känslan och logiken’ hennes egna ord! . . . Det är verkligen märkvärdigt sådan lätthet jag har att sätta mig in i nya förhållanden, jag känner mig så hemmastadd här på gatorna som om jag aldrig gått annorstädes. Jag har ännu ej känt ett grand af melankoli eller tyngd som jag befarade, utan är jag tvärtom är jag [sic] riktigt okristligt lugn och nöjd, harmonisk och frisk, utom att [jag] saknar dig mycket, i synnerhet när jag tänker på att du går der hemma och kanske känner dig ensam. Det är rysligt skönt den här känslan att lita på sig sjelf jag har verkligen aldrig känt mig så lugn och säker.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 9–11, 1885 (this letter was written over a period of several days). In a letter to her family, Bonnier commented accordingly: “It is really remarkable that she finds her way and dares to go out on her own, and she has an excellent sense of direction.” Eva Bonnier to her family, October 7, 1885, cited in Gynning, Pariserbref, 119.

[37] “jag kunde sofvande gå från gata till gata . . . jag tycker hvart ansigte är mig bekant, vid Montparnasse Notre Dame des Champs och hela qvarteret.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 12, 1886.

[38] Temma Balducci, “‘Aller à la pied’: Bourgeois Women on the Streets of Paris,” in Balducci and Jensen, Women, Femininity and Public Space, 151–66; and Masha Belenky, “Moral Geographies: Women and Public Transport,” chap. 4 in Engine of Modernity: The Omnibus and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2019), 133–64.

[39] “Jag fick just ert bref i dag, läste hälften på spårvagnstaket.” (I have just received your letter today, and I read half of it while seated on the upper level of the tram.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 22, 1885. “F.n. håller jag på med Zola ‘Une page d’amour’, som jag lånat af en contessa från Venezia som går hos Colarossi. Boken är förtjusande skrifven och utgör min spårvagnslectur [sic].” (At the moment, I am reading Zola’s “Une page d’amour,” which I have borrowed from a Contessa from Venice who studies at Colarossi. The book is enchantingly written and constitutes my tram-read.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, undated and fragmentary letter, fall 1885.

[40] “här kan man gå ensam men mycket senare än jag skulle tordas göra hemma.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, undated and fragmentary letter, fall 1885. She repeated that claim the next spring: “Här kan man gå ensam mycket senare än i Stockholm, ty det är ej farligt.” (Here, you can walk around much later than in Stockholm because it is not dangerous.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, April 8, 1886.

[41] “Det är ett mycket ogeneradt lif på gatorna, ingen etikett, endast artighet, lika hos högra och lägre. Det enda man behöfver iaktaga är att ej titta för mycket på herrar, just till följe af stora friheten, annars kan man göra hvad man behagar utan att någon lägger märke dertill.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 11, 1885.

[42] Hirsch’s descriptions regarding the limitations of her own gaze correspond to the advice given in French etiquette manuals that advise women not to look at gentlemen in the street due to the risk of being considered uncivilized or sexually available. Balducci, Gender, Space and the Gaze, 68, 94.

[43] “ty min förtjusning berodde mest på det anslående i sjelfa lifvet och staden här.” (My enchantment [with Paris] depended mostly on the striking nature of life and the city itself.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, January 10, 1886.

[44] Charles Baudelaire, “Le Peintre de la vie moderne,” in Œuvres complètes (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1968), 552, trans. in Balducci, Gender, Space and the Gaze, 1.

[45] Aruna D’Souza and Tom McDonough, eds., The Invisible Flâneuse? Gender, Public Space and Visual Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2006); and Temma Balducci and Heather Belnap Jensen, introduction to Balducci and Jensen, Women, Femininity and Public Space, 1–16.

[46] Gynning, Det ambivalenta perspektivet, 55.

[47] Temma Balducci, introduction to Gender, Space and the Gaze, 1–16.

[48] Aruna D’Souza and Tom McDonough, introduction to D’Souza and McDonough, The Invisible Flâneuse, 2.

[49] Balducci and Jensen, introduction to Women, Femininity and Public Space, 3.

[50] In a review of Balducci’s book, Wrigley has criticized the limitations of a visual and literary imagery that does not immediately relate to lived experience, arguing: “A central problem for historians of the flâneur/se is to decide how far the phenomenon exists purely on the page as a literary type, with occasional graphic illustrations.” Richard Wrigley, “Writing off the Flâneur,” Oxford Art Journal 41, no. 1 (2018): 136–39, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxartj/kcx049 [login required].

[51] “här är ej konsten inlåst, utan man klifver rakt in från trädgården derifrån man ser rakt in i skulpturen genom de öppna dörrarne.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 11, 1885.

[52] “En verldsexposition kan ej vara ståtligare. Så stort, så energiskt, allt möjligt från blommor och frukter till stora kolgrufvor med vaxfigurer och hiss man kommer under jorden i konstgjorda grufvor med konstgjorda arbetare men de ser ut som verkliga. Alla möjliga fabriksaker med folk som arbetar hela tiden för att man skall se hur det går till.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 11, 1885.

[53] “togo vi en tredje droska och foro ner, vi voro vid Clichy, till P. de la Concorde, Champs Elysées [sic] ut till Bois de Boulogne der jag ej varit förut, till cascaderne föreslog kusken. Der var en stor utrestaurant [sic] der vi stannade och förtärde. Riktigt pariserlif sådant som står i romanerna, och som man ej tror på, fina vagnar körde dit, droskor ridande vicomter med sina målade damer. Der sutto de och titta på hvarann! . . . Boulognerskogen är förtjusande, elegant och stort, solen sken, vi foro mellan dubbla leder af vagnar. Jag aldrig sett så mycket folk på en gång. . . . Om du hade en karta, kunde du följa med mina beskrifvningar, fast det är ett dåligt surrogat.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 25, 1885.

[54] Greg M. Thomas, “Women in Public: The Display of Femininity in the Parks of Paris,” in D’Souza and McDonough, The Invisible Flâneuse, 40.

[55] “Igår förmiddag efter frukosten for jag till Louvern [sic], ty jag hade intet särskildt att göra, derför gaf jag mig af ensam. Der är förfärligt roligt att gå oaktadt jag inte ännu fått reda på alla afdelningar och gallerier der. Ändå gick jag och läste så flitigt i Baedeker midt i regnet under gamla Tuilerierna. Nog ansåg det goda folket mig då för en engelska.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 5, 1885.

[56] “Jag tror om man sett ett panorama förut blir man ej så förvånad men för mig var det något storartadt. Jag kunde svurit på att allt detta var verklighet att långt borta syntes horisonten med brinnande byar och eld från kanoner. Det måste jag snart se om igen.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 27, 1885. The panorama La Bataille de Champigny was later cut into sixty-five fragments, which were dispersed in public sales. Some fragments are preserved in several French museums, ten of them in the Musée de l’Armée in Paris.

[57] “Der kunde man verkligen bli tumelmusk i hufvudet. Tre gallerier på hvarann, tusende afdelning men en ryslig ordning. Då man stod der uppe såg det ut der nere som utanför Grand Hôtel, Kristina Nilsons [sic] kvällen. Det intar ett helt kvarter. Och så alla biträden, som springa omkring, flickorna alldeles svartklädda och smala om lifvet som getingar. Har du läst ‘Damernas paradis’ af Zola, jag tänkte på den derinne.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 9, 1885.

[58] The so-called Kristina Nilsson accident was a crowd disaster caused by a mass panic, resulting in around nineteen fatalities. It occurred on the evening of September 23, 1885, outside the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, when the famous soprano Kristina Nilsson (1843–1921) was singing from the hotel’s balcony. To this day, the event remains one of Sweden’s most infamous accidents and was considered a national disaster at the time.

[59] “Så ville Ivar visa mig de fina kokotterna.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 14, 1885.

[60] “Ivar tyckte jag var så dum när jag ej genast kunde urskilja dem från andra.” (Ivar thought I was so silly, because I could not immediately distinguish them [the cocottes] from others [respectable women].) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 14, 1885.

[61] Karen J. Leader, “Connaisseuses and Cocottes: Women at the Salon in French Caricature,” in Balducci and Jensen, Women, Femininity and Public Space, 131–49.

[62] “Samtalstonen mellan herrar och sådana damer här är dock fullkomligt oklanderlig, alldeles som med fina damer. Sättet är alltid artigt hos fransmännen sade Ivar och det är det, som skiljer detta umgänge från tonen hemma der nöjet består i att säga klumpigheter åt sådana damer.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 14, 1885.

[63] “Så gick på Folie Bergere [sic], och der fingo vi se den sortens folk både på och utom scen.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 14, 1885.

[64] “Vi hade inga fasta platser utan gingo omkring i gångar, trädgården och öfverallt. Föreställningen åsåg vi dock ifrån skilda platser, man kan sätta sig hvar man vill, det är en vanlig varité [sic] med baletter och allt möjligt. Kanske dock mera vågad och bättre i sin genre, än jag sett förut. Der drack vi förfriskningar, och rosor narra de Ivar att köpa åt mig. Violetter köpte han på gatan åt mig, så jag var lika fin som de andra. Du skulle se dem promenera mellan herrarne, kastande spejande blickar utstyrda målade ibland ganska stiliga.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 14, 1885.

[65] “der var ett fasligt lif, så trångt, och massor med studenter som sprang i gåsmarsch och hade allt möjligt skoj för sig, utklädda i alla otänkbara kostymer, mest lösnäsor, flickor utklädda till karlar o.s.v. Der skrattades, pratades, dansades midt på gatan, allt är tillåtet. Trötta blefve vi gingo in i ett kafé en stund och värmde oss. Gingo senare på bal Bullier; vackra ben och vackra kostymer; men så förbaskadt anständigt, ingen cancan alls!” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, March 14, 1886.

[66] That her French female peers did not enjoy the same kind of freedom is indicated not only in Marie Bashkirtseff’s diaries but also in remarks in Hirsch’s letters regarding art students from local families, who were not allowed to follow with their foreign peers to restaurants. When the Swedish artist Hildegard Thorell studied in Munich in 1883, she frequently visited local restaurants, noting in a letter to her husband that she only dared to visit such places on her own when she was abroad. Hildegard Thorell to Reinhold Thorell, February 18, 1883, brev, E 1, Arkiv Hildegard Thorell, Nordiska Museets Arkiv, Stockholm.

[67] “[Jag] har just varit ute frukosterat på en ny restaurant, två gator härifrån, den fjerde som jag försökt, var mycket nöjd med den här, billig, enkel, glad och god mat. En gumma hade den, och jag har redan gjort bekantskap med en karl, troligen arbetare, hyggligt folk, som man ej behöfver vara rädd att tala vid; han tyckte jag talade franska så bra att han ej kunde tro jag var främling.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 30, 1885.

[68] “Jag har fått lof att måla af en trädgårdsmästare, en bekantskap från vår lilla krog. Han kallas för ‘Jesus’ och är en typ för den franska lefvnadsglädjen.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, April 6, 1886.

[69] There exist several images that show both middle-class women and foreigners as spectators watching Pasteur or his assistants vaccinate people. See, for instance, the drawing by Emile Bayard, Scene of Inoculation in the Laboratory of the École Normale Supérieure, 1886, in the Musée Pasteur, Paris. A few weeks later, the Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt, an acquaintance of Hirsch, exhibited his portrait of Pasteur in his laboratory in the rue d’Ulm to great acclaim at the Salon. Albert Edelfelt, Portrait of Louis Pasteur, 1886, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

[70] “I veckan tänka [vi] gå ut med några finnar som kommit hit till Pasteur skickade af staten. De hafva blifvit bitna af en galen hund.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, April 9, 1886.

[71] “På gården och i det lilla rummet trängdes alla vargbitne, hundbitne och kattbitne, deribland en hel massa ryska bönder, gubbar och gummor, förfärligt stiliga att se uppå, italienare, fransmän och alla nationer.” Hanna to Pauline Hirsch, April 16, 1886.

[72] “Så visade sig Pasteur i en liten dörr till ett annat litet rum der hans handtlangare stod och stack in giftet på patienterna det gick på ett ögonblick. . . . Vi voro der och och [sic] gapade tillsammans med Zola, som vi fingo sigte på i ett hörn, försjunken i betraktande af ryssarne. Han skall naturligen vara med om allt modernt.” Hanna to Pauline Hirsch, April 16, 1886.

[73] “Finskan [the Finnish girl, Hirsch’s nickname for Venny Soldan] och jag som dra omkring öfverallt voro också en dag på börsen, man hade sagt oss att inga fruntimmer fingo slippa in der, men det gick mycket bra, vi kommo upp.” Hanna to Pauline Hirsch, April 16, 1886.

[74] “Det måste berättas ty jag tycker det hör till saken, inte sant! Det var i alla fall roligt att se; det gör inget om man blir utkörd.” Hanna to Pauline Hirsch, April 16, 1886.

[75] “Vi sutto nu högst upp på galleriet ([i marginalen:] 1 franc) der alla studenter vanligen sitta.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 15, 1885.

[76] “Då blef ett lif, de började skälla som hundar, gala som tuppar, jama som kattor, kvickheter haglade jag trodde verkligen först att det kommit in ett menagerie, så bra hermade de djur. Men svinaktigt är det. När de arma qvinspersonerna kommo in blef ett sådant väsen att anföraren inte kunde börja utan gick och satt sig på en stol förargad.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 15, 1885.

[77] “Det var Sapho [sic] som gafs, jag tyckte det gafs utmärkt fast Harding [sic] (Sapho) [sic] imiterar Sarah förfärligt. . . . Det är synd att de skola vara så maniererade de franska skådespelarne. Eva tjöt förfärligt, när Sapho låg och rullade sig på marken.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, December 27, 1885.

[78] “Sarah var sig lik, endast litet hes, matt och förkyld heller också gjorde hon det med flit jag vet ej; men jag tyckte mera om henne än hemma, hon väsnades ej så mycket. Hon är allt förfärligt gripande.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, January 10, 1886.

[79] “Jag har varit på theatern två gånger och gifvit ut så mycket pengar att nu är det riktigt galet; jag måste börja dra in på staten.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, January 10, 1886.

[80] “I mellanakterne sprungo vi ned i foyern och ut på den stora balkongen belyst af elektriskt ljus och den effecten emot foyern innanför som är alldeles [?] i guld, med en enorm massa af gaskronor, var bländande.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, March 1, 1886.

[81] On the impact of electric lighting on artists in the period, see Hollis Clayson, Illuminated Paris: Essays on Art and Lighting in the Belle Époque (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019).

[82] “I dag har jag varit i Panthéon med Caroline efter frukosten, för att se på vägg målningarne. Jag tyckte nästan mest om Puvis de Chavannes, de passade bäst till fresker, derefter Laurents [sic] som voro mycket vackra, sedda såsom taflor.” (Today after lunch I have been to the Panthéon with Caroline to look at the murals. I almost liked those by Puvis de Chavannes the most, they worked best as frescoes, followed by those of Laurens, which were very beautiful as paintings.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 29, 1885.

[83] “vi nöjde oss derför att titta på alla kransar som lågo uppstaplade öfver allt, efter Victor Hugo. Det var en ofantlig mängd, till o.m. ute på trappen låg fullt deraf.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 29, 1885.

[84] “Sedan gingo vi in i en kyrka i närheten en af Paris älsta [sic], förtjusande vacker isynnerhet innuti med sina målade fönster och alla helgonskåp.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 29, 1885.

[85] “Så gå de och köpa ett vaxljus, sätta framför sitt helgon, så lägga de sig på pall och se andäktiga ut. Det är verkligen roligt att se på.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 29, 1885.

[86] “Imorgon träffar man nog åtskilliga bekanta och kända storheter vid industripalatset, dit alla ha tillträde för [att] skåda allt skräp som förs upp till bedömningen för salongen.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, March 14, 1886.

[87] Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 3, 1886.

[88] “För att återgå till Baudry’s utställning, var denna det vackraste jag sett här tror jag. Något mera öfverlägset mera själfullt, oaktadt sina något gammalmodiga färger, kan jag ej tänka mig. . . . Det är något storartadt i hans konst; à la Michel-Angelo (hvilken han också kopierat) och ändå fins der något modernt och franskt.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, April 8, 1886.

[89] Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 12, 1886.

[90] Margareta Gynning, “De franska juste-milieu-konstnärernas betydelse för nordiskt 1880-tal,” Konsthistorisk tidskrift / Journal of Art History 56, no. 2 (1987): 53–56, https://doi.org/10.1080/00233608708604140 [login required].

[91] “I dag var jag efter frukosten hemma och hemtade Ingeborg W. och vi voro i Tuleriträdgården [sic] med våra färgskrin. . . . Det är nu alldeles grönt, nästan för mycket nu i början ty grönskan är så skarp och så monoton i färgen men det går öfver efter några dagar. Jag målade en liten lapp – just ingenting utmärkt. Tänk ändå att sitta i den mest centrala delen af Paris i en så besökt plats, och ändå bli så litet störda, vi sutto också bra i ett hörn af en galler port. Men inte skulle det gå i Stockholm tror jag.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, April 9, 1886.

[92] “Jag tappade i dag bort ett kort med tillåtelse af staten att sitta och måla hvar som helst här i Paris, men jag kan lätt få ett nytt.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, April 9, 1886.

[93] “stora träd, der man går upp och är som hemma hos sig. Der sutto vi och drucko kaffe, sågo på utsigten och rita allt under regnet.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, March 28, 1886.

[94] “Jag gjorde två aqvareller der, som jag skickar med för att fylla brefvet. De äro ej något prof på mina framsteg, jag har ej gjort en aqvarell sedan jag kom hit. Den ena gjorde jag medan vi åto frukost nere vid strand; der fins fullt med restauranter afsedda för lustfarande med små lusthus åt Seine. Det andra motifet gjorde jag helt hasteligen innan vi gingo till station i skogen. Man kan ha en aning att det är vackert i naturen genom att se på den inte sant! Visa dem ej utom huset! . . . Vi foro hem i dag på jernvägstak, det var så roligt och dit på båt.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, April 18, 1886. The watercolors that Hirsch mentioned in her letter are apparently not preserved.

[95] “Gammal och ful som gatan, men roligt och humoristiskt ansigte med den franska pittoreska dräkten.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 18, 1886.

[96] “Olyckan är den att jag verkligen ‘söker’ motif som man aldrig bör göra, men det är omöjligt låta bli. Så t.ex. när jag kom till stugan satt gumman innanför och lagt några stickor i den öppna ugnen, det var ypperligt men påminde så stort om en målares taflor en annan ställning påminde om en annan o.s.v.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 18, 1886.

[97] “Jag hade en ryslig hufvudvärk efter mitt arbete att få gumman att posera och se glad ut. Hon vill nog men hon är litet knottrig i hufvudet och gnolade på samma visa hela tiden så det äcklade mig. Hon skulle sitta tills hon dog om jag bad henne derom.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 22, 1886.

[98] Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 18, 1886.

[99] “och så drog vi till skogen till ett ställe som kallas de brända klipporna, stort ödsligt och herrligt.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 22, 1886. She is probably referring to the cliffs of the Gorges d’Apremont.

[100] “Dit springa de, som vilja ha in sina alster på salongen, ty gubbarna der äro i juryn!” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 22, 1885.

[101] “I början går jag endast en seans, dvs. från 8 på morgonen till 12 för att kunna se mig om samtidigt.” (To start with, I will only visit one sitting, i.e., from 8 in the morning until 12 in order to be able to look around at the same time.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 11, 1885.

[102] Hanna to Betty Hirsch, undated and fragmentary letter, fall 1885.

[103] “Är det ej lustigt att Collin och Courtois komma hvar sin gång under veckan, och rätta samma modell; men nu lär dessutom Collin skola komma två gånger i veckan och en gång eftermiddagen också, så ej kan man då klaga på undervisning.” (Is it not amusing that Collin and Courtois come each once a week and correct the same model, but now it seems Collin is going to come twice a week and once in the afternoon as well, so one cannot complain about the teaching.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 5, 1885.

[104] “Collin är mycket enkel, ingen humbug eller pretention i uppträdandet, oaktadt han är känd som en stor konstnär. Och det är nog ovanligt jag tror de flesta ryktbara, blifva som t.ex. Munkasky [sic] Makart m.fl. Vi ha en ungerska . . . som brukar gå upp och visa sina mästerverk för Munkatcey [sic] och hon brukar tala om alla sceniska effekter och anordningar hos honom.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 5, 1885.

[105] “Courtois flyger igenom atelien [sic], men den korta blick han kastar på ens alster är så skarp och genomträngande att man blir alldeles handfallen.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 15, 1885.

[106] “Som jag denna vecka gått på kostymseansen efter frukosten nere hos herrarne. . . . Sedan en dag i fredags tror jag sjöng jag så mycket på atelien [sic] accompangerad [sic] af herrarnes röster, bravorop och dylikt (i atelien [sic] bredvid). . . . Hos herrarne vid kostym ha vi målat en prest d.v.s. en påklädd, en mycket stilig karl, men jag har gjort det så litet och på en dum bit träd der allting slår in.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 15, 1885.

[107] “Så är det så roligt att vara der, ty de flesta af herrarne äro så vackra, isynnerhet spanjorerne.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 25, 1885.

[108] “Det är riktigt kosmopolitiskt nere hos dem. Fransmän mest, men sedan engelsmän, spanjorer, italienare, ryssar, tyskar, amerikanare och till o.m. två japaneser, som se så snälla ut.” (It is truly cosmopolitan down there. Mostly French, but also English, Spaniards, Italians, Russians, Germans, Americans, and even two Japanese, who look so kind.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 15, 1885.

[109] “Men jag är ‘forte’ ändå, det är nu en dogmen [sic] här att alla svenskar äro.” (But I am “strong” nonetheless; it is now a dogma here that all Swedes are.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 15, 1885.

[110] “Mamma skrifver att det märks akademin hemma ej är så dum ändå när svenskorna äro bäst. Men det är derför att de kunnat få gå vanligen flera år i en akademi och öfva sig hvarje dag.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, October 25, 1885.

[111] “Der får ej damerna deltaga i herrarnes målning då den manliga afdelningen undanbett sig. Men nere och tittat har jag varit.” (The ladies are not allowed to participate in the men’s painting, because the gentlemen’s department has declined. But I have been down there, having a look.) Hanna to Betty Hirsch, undated and fragmentary letter, fall 1885.

[112] “jag har nu bundet mig för en längre tid vid atelien här, och är nöjd dermed ty jag tycker allt mer och mer om mina lärare, i synnerhet Dagnan; det är bestämt den bäste man han intresserar sig så mycket för sina elever.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, January 25, 1886.

[113] This is indicated in the letters of Eva Bonnier, who commented on their visits to Hirsch’s studio and their influence in the jury. Eva Bonnier, letters to her family, March 16 and May 3, 1887, cited in Gynning, Pariserbref, 210, 223.

[114] “Nya komma förresten nästan hvar vecka, och andra gå. Många fruar lär här vara, mest amerikanskor som farit från sina männer eller hvars männer äro döda. . . . Några fransyskor äro här deribland tre parisiskor, som intet kunna komma de dagar lärarne äro här, smala lif siden, puder och sammet; en 17årig oskuld som säger att hon skall gifta sig nästa år och ljuger ihop något hemma för att slinka med oss på restauranten, något som jag ej tillät henne. För resten är hon söt och så bra hon kan vara med en sådan uppfostran. Dessa rita af i stort fotografiporträtter af unga herrar med svarta mustacher och hattar på sned. . . . Jo här fins roliga figurer skall du tro.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, January 25, 1886.

[115] “Att arbeta har jag mycken lust och jag har märkt att intet kan dra mig derifrån, fast det kan gå gladare eller tyngre; men när jag börjar glömmer jag allt annat. Så har jag resonerat så mycket öfver hur man skall vara vara [sic] öfver konst och och [sic] arbete kommit tänka på så många verkligt sanna saker—och jag tror att det mycket är finskans förtjenst, hon har gigvit mig så många nyttiga moralkakor som riktigt har piggat upp mig när jag varit ledsen.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, February 24, 1886.

[116] “Konsten behandlas ej här så skyggt och cerimonielt [sic] som hemma, här springer ej modeller bakom en skärm och klär på sig en skjorta utan converserar och och [sic] värmer sig framför kamin; det går så långt (åtminstone tycker jag det är långt gången men det beror på vanan) att qvinnorna ‘posera’ äfven när de ha sina saker, här om dagen ville de andra att flickan ej skulle få ha handduk på sin en gång, men det fick hon då äntligen. Men jag vet de stå utan och äfven ibland med duk, för herrarne och på Ecole de Baux Arts [sic], då får det rinna efter benen, det tages så naturligt. Äfven arbetar herrar och fruntimmer här tillsammans efter naken modell.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 5, 1885.

[117] For a concise overview of recent research on the subject, see Susan Waller, “Gélon’s Gestures: Posing in Nineteenth-Century Paris,” Art History 42, no. 3 (June 2019): 510–39, https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8365.12441 [login required]. See also Annie Dufour, ed., Le Modèle noir de Géricault à Matisse, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée d’Orsay; Flammarion, 2019).

[118] Susan Waller, “Salem, the Prince of Tombouctou: A North African Model in Nineteenth-Century Paris,” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 21, no. 3 (Autumn 2022), https://doi.org/10.29411/ncaw.2022.21.3.5.

[119] Marie Lathers, “Posing the ‘Belle Juive’: Jewish Models in 19th-Century Paris,” Woman’s Art Journal 21, no. 1 (Spring–Summer 2000): 27–32, https://doi.org/10.2307/1358867 [login required].

[120] Here, I use Rubin’s notion of a tenuous “space between” to describe the ambiguous position of economically successful Ashkenazi Jews in relation to the dominant white, Christian culture. Rubin, “Hebcrit,” 506. See also Daniel Ian Rubin, “Navigating the ‘space between’ the Black/White binary: A call for Jewish multicultural inclusion,” Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal 20, no. 2 (2019): 192–206, https://doi.org/10.1080/14755610.2019.1624267 [login required].

[121] “Vi hafva för tillfället en jude från Algier, en fattig gammal komisk gubbe, som ej kan annat än spanska och har sin egen kostym, en mycket pittoresk, österländsk. Så den gången har vi då ej en utklädd modell åtminstone. Damerna i ateliern äro mycket snälla mot honom, gifva honom mat och tänka göra en samling för honom. Han har så många gester af hemligt förstånd med mig. Det går ganska bra att måla den här veckan.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, February 24, 1886.

[122] “Här om qvällen hade jag också krakel med polskan à pro pos judar. Jag tror hon ej riktigt uppfattat att jag var judinna, men i alla fall kom hon att utösa sig öfver dem, och trodde hon eller ville inte tro att jag var det.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, February 24, 1886.

[123] On whiteness as an unstable category in relation to Jewish identity, see Cynthia Levine-Rasky, “White Privilege: Jewish Women’s Writing and the Instability of Categories,” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 7, no. 1 (2008): 51–66, https://doi.org/10.1080/14725880701859969 [login required].

[124] “Eva tror att han vill gifta sig med rik flicka om han kan komma åt, men i så fall preparerad han saken dumt i det han skriker och talar om ens blifvande förmögenhet. ‘Du är millionär’, ‘rik judflicka’, ‘undra hvad du får i hemgift – blir väl endast ett par gamla flyglar’ sa han åt mig. ‘Var lugn du’ sa ja [sic] jag vill i alla fall inte ha dig. Då blef han arg förstås.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, March 14, 1886.

[125] On internalized anti-Semitism, see Rubin, “Hebcrit,” 506–7.

[126] “Der drack vi champagne som Eva bjöd på; men tala ej om det, eller läs upp det vill hon ej, hon tycker det låter så vräkigt; men det var Josephs fel, han vräker sig mig med hennes pengar.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, March 14, 1886.

[127] “Nu har Eva [Bonnier] alltid sagt att det är så tråkigt med denna jargong som klicken har att vara frivol. . . . Hon har plågats af det, i synnerhet som hon vet att de ej gilla när fruntimmer tycka sådant är roligt, oaktadt de vilja att de utan pryderi skola höra derpå.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 15, 1885.

[128] “Så lagade Helena, mellan Dick [Richard Bergh] och jag frossade i stemningar talade om konst, idéer, tidsanda och moral.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, February 4, 1886.

[129] “Han kan kasta en gillande blick på någon välslickad mamsellstafla efter att han frågat Emma om lof och höra hennes mening, och hon är så bestämd om konst, fast jag ej finner hennes kritik vidare träffande.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 12, 1886.

[130] “och så var Emma allt litet tröttsam med sin konstkritik.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, May 22, 1886.

[131] “Han hade förtjusande saker, . . . sådana der stemningsfulla skymningssaker, från Parisgatorna. . . . Det bästa af allt var att jag fick två studier af honom, jag fick välja, han har så mycket, men med villkor att ge honom igen.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 29, 1885.

[132] “En förtjusande kvinnorygg mot gul fond, jag gör den liten, med tanke att ge den åt Krüger [sic: Kreuger] som gengåfva. Jag skall försöka göra den mycket bra, enkelt och ljus så att Dagnan blir nöjd.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, November 30, 1885.

[133] “Så har jag lofvat Dick [Richard Bergh] att få göra en skitz af mig med lorgnett och allt, men det har jag lofvat så många Pauli, Bob [Robert Thegerström] o.s.v.” Hanna to Betty Hirsch, March 1, 1886.

[134] “Josephson beskärmade sig öfver hur man kunde måla mig så anständigt, hängande på en stol; han sade att [jag] skulle ha armarne högt öfver hufvudet och Dick ville att jag skulle ligga på golfvet. Det blef dock mest skoj den dagen.” Hanna to Pauline Hirsch, April 16, 1886.

[135] “Pauli var den enda som gjorde det färdigt fast han gnällde alldeles rysligt, kunde ej göra ögonen och satt lorgnetten för till slut, fick det ganska likt; men jag hade ofördelaktig belysning, en svart klädning mot svart fond och inga skuggor.” (Pauli was the only one who finished it [the portrait], even though he complained terribly. He couldn’t do the eyes and finally put the lorgnette in front of them; he made it resemble [me]. However, I had unfavorable lighting, a black dress against a black background, and no shadows.) Hanna to Pauline Hirsch, April 16, 1886.

[136] Richard Bergh, “Sjelfkritik,” in Nornan: Svensk kalender för 1888 (Stockholm: Ivar Hæggströms Boktryckeri, 1887), 81, http://runeberg.org/nornan/1888/0094.html.

[137] “liknar någon judisk qvacksalvare med svarta korkskruvslockar.” Carl Rupert Nyblom, “Konstnärsförbundets utställning IV,” Post och Inrikes tidningar, November 2, 1888.

[138] Bergh, “Sjelfkritik,” 87.

[139] Carl Larsson, “Hanna Hirsch, gift Pauli,” Idun, April 4, 1890, 157–58, https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/49167.

[140] On whiteness, otherness and Orientalism in Swedish visual culture, see Jeff Werner and Tomas Björk, Blond and Blue-eyed: Whiteness, Swedishness, and Visual Culture (Gothenburg: Göteborgs Konstmuseum, 2014); and Tomas Björk, Bilden av “Orienten”: Exotism i 1800-talets svenska visuella kultur (Stockholm: Atlantis, 2011).

[141] Unfortunately, the letters to her family from this period of intense work are not preserved.

[142] Rech, Becoming Artists, 217–55.

[143] On naturalism as the dominant aesthetic among Nordic artists in Paris and the importance of naturalism at the Salon, see Gynning, “De franska juste-milieu-konstnärernas betydelse”; Sixten Ringbom, “Nordiskt 80-tal: Verklighet, luft och ljus,” in 1880-tal i nordiskt måleri, ed. Pontus Grate and Nils-Göran Hökby, exh. cat. (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 1985), 7–16; and Per Hedström, “The Swedish Reception of Late Nineteenth-Century French Avant-Garde Art,” in Impressionism and the North: Late 19th Century French Avant-Garde Art and the Art in the Nordic Countries 1870–1920, ed. Torsten Gunnarsson and Per Hedström, exh. cat. (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 2002), 46–128. I have also discussed in detail the crucial function of participation in the Salon for Nordic women painters in Paris in the 1880s in Rech, Becoming Artists.