Séverine, a figure of the socialist ideal

Séverine, a figure of the socialist ideal

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Title: Severine.

Author : HAWKINS Louis Welden (1849 - 1910)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 77 - Width 55

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J. Schormans website

Picture reference: 86EE200 / RF 2607

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J. Schormans

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Caroline Rémy, born in 1855 in a family of the Parisian petty bourgeoisie was widely known by her contemporaries as "one of the most ardent apostles of the socialist ideal" until her death in 1929, on her property in Trois Marches, in Pierrefonds. . A few years later, she offers him the opportunity to publish again The People's Cry, newspaper in which she chose the pen name of Séverine, to which she will henceforth remain faithful. Dreyfusarde, pacifist and feminist, not hesitating to get involved in political life, however, she entered it only late, after having fought parliamentarism for a long time.

Image Analysis

Presented at the Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts in 1895, this painting inspired many comments. Some returned to the model's usual lyricism, such as Laurent Tailhade who dedicated this quatrain to him:
"She's the motherly-hearted warrior, Séverine.
White, his hands from which falls a mysterious gold
Join, and the tears that swell her nostril
Put a little sky in the azure of his eyes. "
while others, more willingly committed, emphasized the use of the gold background which transformed the character into a mystical proselyte of a new socialist religion (Jean Lorrain). The model and his painter found themselves in this same fight.


An activist for gender equality, Séverine found herself involved in the French feminist movement which followed with some delay the British suffragette movement and the examples of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. His anti-parliamentarianism prevented him from joining one of the many disparate associations created and led by large bourgeois women - the National Council of French Women chaired by Mme Jules Siegfried - or aristocrats - the National Union of Women led by the Duchess of La Rochefoucauld. But, with her pen, she took part in the fight, demanding, among other new and controversial things, the right to abortion. Séverine never saw the fruit of her efforts since it was not until the 1930s that the first women's political rights were recognized ... and let's not talk about the rest.

  • feminism
  • portrait
  • hurry
  • socialism
  • anti-parliamentarianism
  • Dreyfusards
  • women vote
  • Séverine (Caroline Rémy, known as)
  • said)


Evelyne LE GARREC, SÉverine, a rebel 1855-1929 Paris, Seuil, 1982.

Evelyne LE GARREC (annotated by), Séverine, choix of papers, Paris, Tierce, 1982.

To cite this article

Dominique LOBSTEIN, "Séverine, a figure of the socialist ideal"

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