Temporary exhibitions

Corsets Off. Camille Claudel and Polish Women Sculptors of the 19th Century

19th of May - 10th of September 2023 


This exhibition is dedicated to the pioneer generation of Polish female sculptors, most of whom lived and worked at the same time as the now-famous French sculptor Camille Claudel (1864-1943). The exhibition aims to bring back the memory of other forgotten female artists and to give them their rightful place in the history of art. It is also the first presentation of Camille Claudel’s works in Poland.
Today the most recognizable woman sculptor of the 19th century, who entered popular culture thanks to films and books devoted to her, Claudel received recognition only posthumously. After many artistic successes, she was placed by her mother in a closed institution in 1913 where she spent the next thirty years as her achievements gradually fell into oblivion. The process of rediscovering Claudel’s work began with an exhibition at the Musée Rodin in Paris in 1951. Since then, many scholarly publications devoted to her have been published, and in 2017 a monographic museum opened in Nogent-sur-Seine, the town where she began her artistic education.

Polish women sculptors of the 19th century – successful and awarded at national and international exhibitions, authors of numerous public artworks, widely reviewed in the press – also fell into oblivion for many years. Their biographies are often, as in the case of Camille Claudel, a history of struggle against stereotypes, prejudices, and the resulting inequalities and adversities. While learning to paint and draw was usually an element of girls’ education, intended to develop their sensitivity and sense of aesthetics, their access to sculpting was restricted in various ways. Modelling in clay, casting in plaster, or carving in stone (as well as the accompanying physical effort, dirt, and dust) were perceived as belonging to the typically male domain. Sculpting also meant representing the nude body, which was considered a threat to women’s morality since the specificity of the creative process entailed direct contact with the material.

Almost until the end of the 19th century, women were not allowed to study at public art schools. Nevertheless, female sculptors constituted one of the most emancipated professional groups. The stubbornness of the first generation of women artists who consistently pursued their goal – to obtain professional education and devote themselves to sculpting – led to a change in the way of thinking about sculpture and paved the way for the next generations of women.


The exhibition illustrates the variety of forms and materials used by the 19th-century sculptors, as well as the range of topics they took up. The narrative has been divided into the following sections:  Masters: Opportunity to Study, In Service: Religious and Patriotic Duties, Portrait: What a Woman Is Allowed to Sculpt, Naked Body: Crossing Boundaries
Together they reveal the journey of  women artists to independence and recognition, and their outstanding determination. It is an inspiring view into the world of female sculptors who, through their strength and courage, rejected the corset of conventions and mores imposed by the era. Women who made their dreams come true.


The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog available in the museum's bookstore for PLN 160.


curator: Dr Ewa Ziembińska
curatorial cooperation: Alicja Gzowska




Patronage of Frédéric Billet, French Ambassador to Poland


Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage

Museum Patrons:

PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna
PKN Orlen


Museum Strategy Partner:

Museum Partners:

Totalizator Sportowy
PKP Intercity




Media Patrons:

RMF Classic
TVP Kultura
Kosmos dla Dziewczynek