Brilliant Exiles: American Women in Paris, 1900 – 1939

Exhibition Website

Apr 26 2024 - Feb 23 2025

Through portraiture and biography, “Brilliant Exiles: American Women in Paris, 1900 – 1939” illuminates the accomplishments of sixty convention-defying women who crossed the Atlantic to pursue personal and professional aspirations in the vibrant cultural milieu of Paris. 

As foreigners in a cosmopolitan city, these “exiles” escaped the constraints that limited them at home. Many used their newfound freedom to pursue culture-shifting experiments in a variety of fields, including art, literature, design, publishing, music, fashion, journalism, theater and dance. An impressive number rose to preeminence as cultural arbiters, not merely participating in important modernist initiatives but orchestrating them. The progressive ventures they undertook while living abroad profoundly influenced American culture and opened up new possibilities for women. “Brilliant Exiles” highlights the dynamic role of portraiture in articulating the new identities that American women were at liberty to develop in Paris.

​​“Brilliant Exiles” is the first exhibition to focus on the impact of American women on Paris – and of Paris on American women – from the turn of the 20th century until the outbreak of World War II. Included will be portraits of cultural influencers, such as Josephine Baker, Isadora Duncan, Zelda Fitzgerald, Loïs Mailou Jones, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Anaïs Nin, Gertrude Stein, Ethel Waters, and Anna May Wong. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a major catalogue, published by the National Portrait Gallery and Yale University Press.

Credit: Overview from museum website

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