By Leslie Fandrich // Theme: Women, Feminism // Category: Inspiring Ideas
Recently, I realized that I knew a limited amount of information about art that was made by women. Gender isn't listed on the placard like materials or dates and when I looked at art I didn't always pay attention to who made it. Not anymore. Now, I am seeking out art made by women and learning as much as I can.
In art school we learned about classic artists and "masters", art movements and art history, but somehow only a few women got into the textbooks and lectures. "The Masters" were mostly men. It wasn't because of lack of talent, women just didn't have the same opportunities or support. The ones who persevered can stand just as tall as any of the men creating work at the same time. These ladies rock.
There should be a required class, in every art program, dedicated to teaching everyone about art by women. It needs to be called out and drawn attention to. Where are the women? What are the themes they are dealing with? How have they contributed to the history of art?
"Starting in 1937, Lee Krasner took classes with Hans Hofmann, who taught the principles of cubism, and his influence helped to direct Krasner's work toward neo-cubist abstraction. When commenting on her work, Hofmann stated, "This is so good you would not know it was painted by a woman." (From Wikipedia)
That is the culture that women faced then, and sometimes still do. Even now, Krasner is often known first for her marriage to Jackson Pollack than for her own work. It's time for things like this to change.
I hope we can all become a little more educated about women in the arts. I want to see more women in art galleries. I want to see more art made by women discussed and shared. Critics, curators and art buyers: pay attention to how often you feature and purchase art by women. Make an effort to invite more women to participate. FIND THEM. Women have been making art forever, and they have been mostly ignored, so they might not be seeking you out. They ARE out there though, you just have to look.
To start you off, here are SIXTY-SIX women artists that I have rounded up. I didn't mean for this list to be so long! The good news is that it CAN be this long. There are so many fabulous women artists out there to discover. Before I complied this list I knew of less than half of them. It was an education for me and something all artists need to be aware of. (All the descriptions come from Wikipedia and the names of each artist link back there for more information.)
Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532 – 16 November 1625) was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Cremona. She received a well-rounded education that included the fine arts, and her apprenticeship with local painters set a precedent for women to be accepted as students of art. ↦ image search
Lavinia Fontana (August 24, 1552 – August 11, 1614) was an Italian painter. She is regarded as the first woman artist, working within the same sphere as her male counterparts, outside a court or convent. ↦ image search
Artemisia Gentileschi (July 8, 1593 – c. 1656) was an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio. In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. ↦ image search
Maria Sibylla Merian (2 April 1647 – 13 January 1717) was a German-born naturalist and scientific illustrator, a descendent of the Frankfurt branch of the Swiss Merian family, founders of one of Europe's largest publishing houses in the 17th century. ↦ image search
Angelica Kauffman (30 October 1741 – 5 November 1807) was a Swiss-born Austrian Neoclassical painter who had a successful career in London and Rome. While Kauffman produced many types of art, she identified herself primarily as a history painter, an unusual designation for a woman artist in the 18th century. ↦ image search
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (16 April 1755 – 30 March 1842) also known as Madame Lebrun, was a French painter, and is recognized as the most important female painter of the 18th century. Her style is generally considered Rococo and shows interest in the subject of neoclassical painting. ↦ image search
Rosa Bonheur (16 March 1822 – 25 May 1899) was a French animalière, realist artist, and sculptor. She is widely considered to have been the most famous female painter of the nineteenth century. ↦ image search
Elizabeth Jane Gardner (October 4, 1837 – January 28, 1922) was an American academic and salon painter, who was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. She was an American expatriate who died in Paris where she had lived most of her life. ↦ image search
Berthe Morisot (January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895) was a painter and a member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. She was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt. ↦ image search
Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children. ↦ image search
Anna Mary Robertson Moses (September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961), better known as "Grandma Moses", was a renowned American folk artist. She is often cited as an example of an individual successfully beginning a career in the arts at an advanced age. Grandma Moses' paintings were used to publicize numerous American holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mother's Day. During the 1950s, Grandma Moses' exhibitions were so popular that they broke attendance records all over the world. ↦ image search
Florine Stettheimer (August 29, 1871 - May 11, 1944) was an American painter, designer, and poet. Eccentric, private, and withdrawn, Stettheimer protected her lyrical canvases and painterly poems from the vicissitudes of the open and competitive market place. With her sisters, Carrie and Ettie, she hosted a salon for modernists in Manhattan, which included Marcel Duchamp, Henry McBride, and Georgia O'Keeffe, and became the setting for displaying her own whimsical artwork and for circulating her witty poems. ↦ image search
Emily Carr (December 13, 1871 – March 2, 1945) was a Canadian artist and writer heavily inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. One of the first painters in Canada to adopt a modernist and post-impressionist painting style, Carr did not receive widespread recognition for her work until later in her life. ↦ image search
Georgia O'Keeffe (November 15, 1887 – March 6, 1986) was an American artist. Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, O'Keeffe first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916. She made large-format paintings of enlarged blossoms, presenting them close up as if seen through a magnifying lens, and New York buildings, most of which date from the same decade. ↦ image search
Alma Thomas (September 22, 1891 – February 24, 1978) was an African-American Expressionist painter and art educator. She lived and worked primarily in Washington, D.C. and the Washington Post described her as a force in the Washington Color School. ↦ image search
Grace Cossington Smith (20 April 1892 – 10 December 1984) was an Australian artist and pioneer of modernist painting in Australia and was instrumental in introducing Post-Impressionism to her home country. Examples of her work are held by every major gallery in Australia. ↦ image search
Claude Cahun (25 October 1894 – 8 December 1954) was a French artist, photographer and writer. Her work was both political and personal, and often played with the concepts of gender and sexuality. ↦ image search
Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography. ↦ image search
Louise Nevelson (September 23, 1899 – April 17, 1988) was an American sculptor known for her monumental, monochromatic, wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures. Born in Czarist Russia, she emigrated with her family to the United States in the early 20th century. ↦ image search
Alice Neel (January 28, 1900 – October 13, 1984) was an American artist known for her oil on canvas portraits of friends, family, lovers, poets, artists and strangers. Her paintings are notable for their expressionistic use of line and color, psychological acumen, and emotional intensity. ↦ image search
Margaret Bourke-White (June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971) was an American photographer and documentary photographer. She is best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry, the first female war correspondent (and the first woman permitted to work in combat zones) and the first female photographer for Henry Luce's Life magazine, where her photograph appeared on the first cover. ↦ image search
Lois Mailou Jones (November 3, 1905 – June 9, 1998) was an artist who painted and influenced others during the Harlem Renaissance and beyond, during her long teaching and artistic career. Jones was the only African-American female painter of the 1930s and 1940s to achieve fame abroad, and the earliest whose subjects extend beyond the realm of portraiture. ↦ image search
Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) was a Mexican painter who is best known for her self-portraits. Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as Naïve art or folk art. Her work has also been described as "surrealist", and in 1938 André Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Kahlo's art as a "ribbon around a bomb". ↦ image search
Lee Krasner (October 27, 1908 – June 19, 1984) was an influential American abstract expressionist painter in the second half of the 20th century. On October 25, 1945, she married artist Jackson Pollock. Krasner would often cut apart her own drawings and paintings to create collages and, at times, revised or discarded an entire series. As a result, her surviving body of work is relatively small. Her catalogue raisonné, published in 1995 by Abrams, lists only 599 known pieces. ↦ image search
Louise Bourgeois (25 December 1911 – 31 May 2010), was a renowned French-American artist and sculptor, one of the most important artists in modern and contemporary art, and known for her spider structures which resulted in her being nicknamed the Spiderwoman. ↦ image search
Agnes Bernice Martin (March 22, 1912 – December 16, 2004) was a Canadian-American abstract painter, often referred to as a minimalist; Martin considered herself an abstract expressionist. She won a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998. ↦ image search
Charlotte Salomon (April 16, 1917 – October 10, 1943) was a German-Jewish artist born in Berlin. She is primarily remembered as the creator of an autobiographical series of paintings consisting of 769 individual works painted between 1941 and 1943 in the south of France, while Salomon was in hiding from the Nazis. ↦ image search
Lygia Clark (October 23, 1920 – April 25, 1988) was a Brazilian artist best known for her painting and installation work. She was often associated with the Brazilian Constructivist movements of the mid-20th century and the Tropicalia movement. ↦ image search
Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971) was an American photographer and writer noted for black-and-white square photographs of "deviant and marginal people (dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers) or of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal". ↦ image search
Joan Mitchell (February 12, 1925 – October 30, 1992) was a "second generation" abstract expressionist painter and printmaker. She was an essential member of the American Abstract expressionist movement, even though much of her career took place in France. Along with Lee Krasner, Grace Hartigan, and Helen Frankenthaler, she was one of her era's few female painters to gain critical and public acclaim. ↦ image search
Betye Irene Saar (July 30, 1926 in Los Angeles, California) is an American artist, known for her work in the field of assemblage. Saar was a part of the black arts movement in the 1970s, challenging myths and stereotypes. In the 1990s, her work was politicized while she continued to challenge the negative ideas of African Americans. ↦ image search
Nancy Spero (August 24, 1926 – October 18, 2009) was an American visual artist. As both artist and activist, Nancy Spero's career spanned fifty years. She was renowned for her continuous engagement with contemporary political, social, and cultural concerns. Spero chronicled wars and apocalyptic violence as well as articulating visions of ecstatic rebirth and the celebratory cycles of life. ↦ image search
Lygia Pape (7 April 1927 – 3 May 2004) was born in Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Lygia Pape worked in sculpture, engraving, and filmmaking. She was an influential Brazilian artist, active in both the Concrete and Neo-Concrete movements in Brazil during the 1950s and 1960s. ↦ image search
Helen Frankenthaler (December 12, 1928 – December 27, 2011) was an American abstract expressionist painter. She was a major contributor to the history of postwar American painting. Having exhibited her work for over six decades (early 1950s until 2011), she spanned several generations of abstract painters while continuing to produce vital and ever-changing new work. ↦ image search
Yayoi Kusama (born March 22, 1929) is a Japanese artist and writer. Throughout her career she has worked in a wide variety of media, including painting, collage, sculpture, performance art and environmental installations, most of which exhibit her thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition and pattern. A precursor of the pop art, minimalist and feminist art movements, Kusama influenced contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. ↦ image search
Chryssa Vardea-Mavromichali (December 31, 1933 – December 23, 2013) was a Greek American artist who worked in a wide variety of media. An American art pioneer in light art and luminist sculpture widely known for her neon, steel, aluminum and acrylic glass installations, she has always used the mononym Chryssa professionally. ↦ image search
Judy Chicago (born 1939) is an American feminist artist and writer known for her large collaborative art installation pieces which examine the role of women in history and culture. Born in Chicago, Illinois, as Judith Cohen, she changed her name after the death of her father and her first husband, choosing to disconnect from the idea of male dominated naming conventions. ↦ image search
Susan Rothenberg (born 1945) is a contemporary painter who lives and works in New Mexico, USA. Since the mid-1970s, Rothenberg has been recognized as one of the most innovative and independent artists of the contemporary period; in 2010, New York Times art critic David Belcher wrote that comparisons between Rothenberg and Georgia O'Keeffe had "become hard to avoid. ↦ image search
Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945) is an American conceptual artist. Much of her work consists of black-and-white photographs overlaid with declarative captions—in white-on-red Futura Bold Oblique or Helvetica Ultra Condensed. The phrases in her works often include pronouns such as "you", "your", "I", "we", and "they". Kruger lives and works in New York and Los Angeles. ↦ image search
Marina Abramović (born November 30, 1946) is a New York-based Serbian performance artist who began her career in the early 1970s. Active for over three decades, she has recently begun to describe herself as the "grandmother of performance art." Abramović's work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. ↦ image search
Annie Leibovitz (born October 2, 1949) is an American portrait photographer. In 1970, she started her career as staff photographer, working for the just launched Rolling Stone magazine. In 1991, Leibovitz mounted an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. She was the second living portraitist and first woman to show there. ↦ image search
Jenny Holzer (born July 29, 1950) is an American conceptual artist. Holzer lives and works in Hoosick Falls, New York. Holzer belongs to the feminist branch of a generation of artists that emerged around 1980, looking for new ways to make narrative or commentary an implicit part of visual objects. ↦ image search
Sally Mann (born May 1, 1951) is an American photographer, best known for her large black-and-white photographs—at first of her young children, then later of landscapes suggesting decay and death. ↦ image search
Sophie Calle (born 1953) is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle's work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. ↦ image search
Carrie Mae Weems (born April 20, 1953) is an American artist who works with text, fabric, audio, digital images, and installation video but is best known for her work in the field of photography. Her award-winning photographs, films, and videos have been displayed in over 50 exhibitions in the United States and abroad and focus on serious issues that face African Americans today, such as racism, gender relations, politics, and personal identity. ↦ image search
Marlene Dumas (born 3 August 1953) is a South African born artist and painter who lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Stressing both the physical reality of the human body and its psychological value, Dumas tends to paint her subjects at the extreme fringes of life’s cycle, from birth to death, with a continual emphasis on classical modes of representation in Western art, such as the nude or the funerary portrait. By working within and also transgressing these traditional historical antecedents, Dumas uses the human figure as a means to critique contemporary ideas of racial, sexual, and social identity. ↦ image search
Nan Goldin (born September 12, 1953) is an American photographer. Goldin's work is most often presented in the form of a slideshow. The main themes of her early pictures are love, gender, domesticity, and sexuality; these frames are usually shot with available light. ↦ image search
Cindy Sherman (born January 19, 1954) is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits. Through a number of different series of works, Sherman has sought to raise challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art. ↦ image search
Cady Noland (born 1956 in Washington, DC.) is a postmodern conceptual sculptor and an internationally exhibited installation artist, whose work deals with the failed promise of the American Dream and the divide between fame and anonymity, among other themes. ↦ image search
Gillian Wearing (born 1963) is an English conceptual artist, one of the YBAs, and winner of the annual British fine arts award, The Turner Prize, in 1997. On 11 December 2007, Wearing was elected as lifetime member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. ↦ image search
Rachel Whiteread (born 20 April 1963) is an English artist who primarily produces sculptures, which typically take the form of casts. She won the annual Turner Prize in 1993 – the first woman to win the prize. ↦ image search
Kara Walker (born November 26, 1969) is a contemporary African-American artist who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity in her work. She is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes. ↦ image search
Julie Mehretu (born 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) is an artist, best known for her densely layered abstract paintings and prints. She lives and works in New York City. Mehretu shares her New York studio with her partner, the artist Jessica Rankin. ↦ image search
Jenny Saville (born 1970 in Cambridge, England) is a contemporary British painter and associated with the Young British Artists. She is known for her large-scale painted depictions of naked women. Saville works and lives in Oxford, England. ↦ image search
Since I wrote this many, many more women artists have come to my attention and while this was not meant to include every single woman artist, I would like to add a few here that I will be including on an updated version of this list: Suzanne Valadon, Kathe Kollwitz, Gabriele Munter, Meret Oppenheim, Niki De Saint Phalle, Rebecca Horn, Isa Genzken, Kiki Smith, Shirin Neshat and Tracey Emin.
Where Are the Great Women Pop Artists? – Pop art in the hands and minds of women artists is intricately linked to the rise of feminist art, political and sociological art, art that involves decoration and craft and female sexuality—and thus the subsequent future of 20th-century art. These artists weren’t tangential: they were crucial.
Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art – From The Museum of Modern Art's founding by three pioneering women in 1929 to the disruptions and interventions of the 1960s and 1970s by women artists drawing attention to their own lack of representation in the Museum to contemporary work by women of the postfeminist generation, the history of women at MoMA is inextricable from the history of the institution.
Helen Frankenthaler: A WIND THAT LASHES EVERYTHING AT ONCE by Jerry Saltz — Frankenthaler may have been the first artist not regularly referred to, demeaned, neutralized and made safe with the label “woman artist.” Before her, Frida Kahlo, Alice Neel and Louise Nevelson regularly were relegated to the ghetto.
BOCA Museum of Art: Where are all of the women artists? — Intrigued by New York Magazine art critic Jerry Salz's investigation and public condemnation of the percentage of women artists found in the Museum of Modern Art's Permanent Collection, I decided to look to my own backyard and see what I could find.
Forget Richter, Warhol and Picasso: Where Are All the Women? — One of the more edifying results of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale in London last night was that a new world auction record was set for a female artist when Berthe Morisot’s 1881 oil painting Après le déjeuner sold for £6,985,250, including the buyer’s premium, or $10,980,813.