Is everyone asleep at the Rijksmuseum? In 2021 I reported an exhibit at the Netherlands’ national treasure house of Dutch art by women called “Female Power” denoted by an image of powerlessness.

The painting - Five Women in an Interior by Dirck van Delenin - described females dressed alike in dark gowns and white bonnets like those forced to live as concubines in the TV series "The Handmaid's Tale."

Clearly, that was a poor choice to promote a show about “Female Power.” But while mistakes can happen, you don’t expect the Rijksmuseum to make a similar error two years in a row.

Gone but not forgotten

Last week the Rijksmuseum chose a painting ill-suited for the announcement of a $300,000 donation to fund research into Dutch female painters. The picture chosen is by the French Impressionist Eduard Manet.

Wrong gender. Wrong country. What’s more, Manet is infamous for telling his writer friend George Moore what he thought of Berthe Morisot, his brother’s wife: “My sister-in-law would not have existed without me.”

But wait. Manet’s picture - Portrait of Marie Bashkirtseff - could be justified to herald research into overlooked female artists. But neither the museum website nor its press releases say that Bashkirtseff was an overlooked artist owing to gender bias.

Allow me.

Bashkirtseff was a young Ukrainian artist living in Paris, who was kept down on the farm, so to say, a victim of discrimination in the art world because of her gender. The top school, Ecole des Beaux-arts, wouldn’t let her in.

She noted the prejudices she suffered in a diary that was published posthumously in 1889. Likely, she’d be better known if she didn’t die at age 25 of tuberculosis.

Despite being held back by bias against female artists, she managed to show at the Paris Salon.

The picture Bachkirtseff showed, called The Meeting, described a gathering of slum children. Reportedly, the image was popular with both the press and the public.

Say what?

Another problem with using Manet’s painting to promote research about overlooked female painters: the tagline identifying Manet’s portrait written both on the museum website and in the press release is incorrect.

The tagline reads: “Installation of Marie Bashkirtseff, Portrait of the artist’s sister-in-law.” Whoever the museum staffer was who wrote that was probably thinking of Manet’s brother Eugene who was married to Berthe Morisot. Bashkirstseff was no one’s sister-in-law. She never married.

The Rijksmuseum’s senior curator, Jenny Reynaerts, who chairs the newly funded research, states her intention not only to identify the female artists in the collection but also to identify the women portrayed in the artwork.

Well, she can start by telling the story of the woman in Manet’s painting. While neither he nor Bashkirtsseff was Dutch, the one connection to Rijksmuseum’s research of overlooked women painters is her story about being overlooked.

So, tell it.

NOTE: I’ve chosen Bashkirstseff’s 1881 painting “In the Studio” to illustrate this posting because it describes an art class at the only school in 19th-century Paris that accepted women, the Academie Julie. The painter can be seen without an easel.