When Madeleine Fessard entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1917, women were only admitted under certain restrictions, and it was still a rare career path for a woman to choose. Founded in 1796, the École des Beaux-Arts did not admit women until 1897, but even then they were denied access to the workshops and competitions (an access they were granted in 1900 and 1903 respectively).
Their access to a loge [competition cell] for the Prix de Rome was granted for the first time in 1906 to Lucienne Heuvelmans, who won the Premier Grand Prix for sculpture in 1911. During the 1920s, however, women were still few in number and their conditions hardly fair. Notably, access to the same workshops as the male pupils was still denied for reasons of “impropriety”.
In 1917, Madeleine entered Marqueste’s workshop. She is also cited as a female pupil of Ségoffin, and appears on the list of pupils of François Sicard (1862-1934), winner of the Prix de Rome and who created the Monument aux Morts [war memorial] in Fécamp (1923). Admitted as a temporary pupil on 13th May 1921, she became a permanent pupil on 8th December 1924, thanks to a third Second Prize in the figure modelée [sculptured figure] competition.