On Inventing Women Artists in a Post Truth Era
I want Sophie La Rosière to be real. Born in 1867 to middle-class parents in Nogent-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris, France, La Rosière’s biography benefits from the details it lacks. An only child, she found sibling substitutes in the wealthy Smith sisters, until the intensity of her connection with the youngest, Madeleine, worried La Rosière’s parents enough that they sequestered her in a convent to complete her schooling. After the death of her parents, La Rosière reignited her friendship with the Smith sisters, struck up a relationship with a much younger artist’s model named Florence and focused on her painting. She died alone and unknown in an old-age home established by the Smith sisters at the age of 81.
La Rosière fits into my favourite archetype: the Modernist dame. She’s the ideal blend of moxie, sapphic gossip, Boston marriages, money and overlooked genius. Exchange a few minor details and La Rosière could be Gertrude Stein, Jane Bowles, Louisa d’Andelot Carpenter. I would read an anthology of La Rosière’s correspondence; I would watch her biopic (preferably starring Juliette Binoche).
Her fictitiousness results, for me, in palpable disappointment...