Jeunes Filles

Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau (American, 1837–1922), La Confidence, c. 1880. Oil on canvas mounted on aluminum, 68 x 47 1/8 in. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia. Original gift of Mr. George Seney to the Lucy Cobb Institute, Athens, GA. GMOA 00.67. Courtesy of American Federation of Arts

Jeunes filles—young girls navigating the stage between childhood and adulthood—became an important theme in late-nineteenth-century painting. It was perhaps unsurprising that many women portrayed this transitional moment in paint; they were familiar with the uncertainty and promise of the future, having recently passed through adolescence themselves. As the works displayed here demonstrate, they depicted, with great sensitivity, social relationships and reflective moments that were significant to the establishment of one’s sense of self.
These artists’ subjects—whether themselves, their friends, their family, or hired models—evoke the curiosity, hope, beauty, and uncertainty of the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Jeunes filles embodied an awakening power—a vital energy that hinted at the future autonomy of young and grown women alike.