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Our favourite female artists (deceased) – part 4

This eclectic group of female artists were pretty much unknown to me before I wrote this post and were all suggested by fellow bloggers and facebook followers. They are an interesting mix of rebels and non-conformists, many (but not all) of whom have become icons of modern feminism. Many of these artists were extremely versatile and often worked outside the main-stream. They were all revolutionary. Some simply because they were independent women with artistic careers, others because of the nature of the art they produced. They were inventive and inspired.

Artemisia Gentileschi, is the spiritual grandmother of all female artists. She was an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio.  She was the eldest child of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. Artemisia was introduced to painting in her father’s workshop, showing much more talent than her brothers, who worked alongside her.  She painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myths and the Bible – victims, suicides, warriors. 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. In the 1970s there was renewed interest in her when feminist art historian Linda Nochlin published an article titled “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressive painters of her generation.




Moving forward a couple of centuries, we have an artist who gave up painting on her marriage. Edma Morisot, was the elder sister of Berthe, whom was in my first list of female artists (deceased). Edma and Berthe were both encouraged by their mother, arranged for them to study with the neoclassical painter Geoffroy Alphonse Chocane in 1857. Chocane tried to warm their mother against such training  “With natures like those of your daughters my teaching will not confer the meagre talent of genteel accomplishment, they will become painters. Do you have any

Edma’s portrait of Berthe Morisot

idea what that means? In your milieu of the grande bourgeoisie it would be a revolution.” The sisters also studied with the painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, who taught them to paint en plein air. Edma had some success as an artists as her works were accepted to the annual Salon, in 1864, 1865, 1866, 1867, and 1868. Sadly, for Art, Edma married a naval officer, moved to Cherbourg and gave up all artistic activity. This inspired her sister Berthe to stay single to pursue her artistic career. However, she did eventually marry, but continued her career after marriage.


Margaret W. Tarrant,  was an English illustrator, and children’s author, specializing in depictions of fairy-like children and religious subjects. She was the daughter of an artist, Percy Tarrant,  and she began her career at the age of 20, and painted and published into the early 1950s. She was known for her very popular children’s books, postcards, calendars, and print reproductions. On first impression, her sweet pictures may not seem revolutionary but she was a career woman who traveled to Palestine in 1936, a politically volatile region, in the days before package holidays.

Kaethe Kollwitz, was a German artist, who worked with painting, printmaking (including etching, lithography and woodcuts) and sculpture. Her most famous art cycles, including The Weavers and The Peasant War, depict the effects of poverty, hunger, and war on the working class. Despite the realism of her early works, her art is now more closely associated with Expressionism. Kollwitz was the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy of Arts.

Louise Nevelson, was Born in Ukraine and emigrated with her family to the United States in the early 20th century. She learned English at school but she spoke Yiddish at home.  She experimented with early conceptual art using found objects, and dabbled in painting and printing before dedicating her lifework to sculpture. Usually created out of wood, her sculptures appear puzzle-like, with multiple intricately cut pieces placed into wall sculptures or independently standing pieces, often 3-D. Her work is seen in major collections in museums and corporations. Nevelson remains one of the most important figures in 20th-century American sculpture.

Barbara Hepworth,  was a British sculptor, who was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1903. She was a leading figure in the international art scene throughout a career spanning five decades. Her work exemplifies Modernism and in particular modern sculpture. She was one of the few female artists of her generation to achieve international prominence. From 1939 onwards she was based in St Ives in Cornwall.

Leonora Carrington, was an English-born Mexican artist, surrealist painter, and novelist. She lived most of her adult life in Mexico City, and was one of the last surviving participants in the Surrealist movement of the 1930s. She came from a wealthy family but did not take well to rules, being expelled twice from two different schools. Although her father opposed her career as an artist, her mother encouraged her. Leonora Carrington was also a founding member of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Mexico during the 1970s.

Helen Frankenthaler, was an American abstract expressionist painter. She was a major contributor to the history of postwar American painting. Frankenthaler began exhibiting her large-scale abstract expressionist paintings in contemporary museums and galleries in the early 1950s. She was included in the 1964 Post-Painterly Abstraction exhibition curated by Clement Greenberg that introduced a newer generation of abstract painting that came to be known as Color Field. Born in Manhattan, she was influenced by Greenberg, Hans Hofmann, and Jackson Pollock’s paintings.

Niki de Saint Phalle – was a French-American sculptor, painter, and filmmaker. She was one of the few women artists widely known for monumental sculpture.  Her idiosyncratic style has been called “outsider art”; she had no formal training in art, but associated freely with many other contemporary artists, writers, and composers. (taken from Tate website)

Alice Neel – I kept coming across the paintings of Alice Neel when I was looking at my lists of living artists. Her works seemed so fresh I found it hard to believe that she had died almost 40 years ago. She was an American visual artist, who was known for her portraits depicting friends, family, lovers, poets, artists and strangers. Her paintings have an expressionistic use of line and colour, psychological acumen, and emotional intensity. Neel was called “one of the greatest portrait artists of the 20th century” by Barry Walker, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which organized a retrospective of her work in 2010. (taken from Tate website)

Finally, I will finish with a very revolutionary artist, Louise Bourgeois. She was a French-American artist. Best known for her large-scale sculpture and installation art, Bourgeois was also a prolific painter and printmaker. Louise Bourgeois’s work, which spanned most of the twentieth century, was heavily influenced by traumatic psychological events from her childhood, particularly her father’s infidelity. Bourgeois’s often brooding and sexually explicit subject matter and her focus on three-dimensional form were rare for women artists at the time. Her influence on other artists since the 1970s looms large, but is manifested most strongly in feminist-inspired body art and in the development of installation art.




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Our Favourite female artists (deceased) – part 3

This weeks’ offering is from the early twentieth century. It’s quite an eclectic selection. From the wonderful geometric designs of Clarice Cliff and Sonia Delaunay to the decidedly whimsical Cicely Mary Barker to the whimsical (in a hard-edged traumatized way, maybe fantastical is a better word), Frida Kahlo.

Clarice Cliff   Clarice is working class hero. She was a ceramic artist, whose designs typify the 1930s for me. She was from Stoke-on-Trent in England, an area with a proud history in pottery. She started working in the pottery industry at age 13. She learnt how to paint pottery freehand in the day whilst time studying art and sculpture at a local Art School in the evenings. Clarice Cliff’s fame and success in the 1930s was unprecedented, the newspapers loved her. Her work is still very popular today and you can still bid for pieces on ebay.

Cicely Mary Barker AKA the flower fairy artist. As a little girl I was mesmerised by these paintings, especially the Fushia Fairy. I would study the details again and again. She was born in Croydon, south of London and suffered from epilepsy as a child. Like Clarice, she started studying art at age 13 at an evening class at Croydon School of Art. Her earliest professional work included greeting cards and juvenile magazine illustrations. At age 17 money from this sort of work became vital in supporting her family after her father’s death. The 1920s saw a sort of “Fairy Fever” in England with The Coming of the Fairies by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, and the fairy-themed work of Australian Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. In 1923 Cicely’s Flower Fairies was published. It depicted botanically accurate drawings with the enchanting fairy images based on real children from Cicely’s sister’s nursery school.

Lyubov Popova was a Russian avant-garde artist (Cubist, Suprematist and Constructivist), painter and designer. She worked in a broad range of mediums and disciplines, including painting, relief, works on paper, and designs for the theater, textiles, and typography. I am no fan of cubism, its too intellectual for my tastes but I absolutely love her textile designs – especially the hammer and sickle print.  I think that many avant-garde paintings and designs still look fresh and exciting today. Sadly she died in her 30s, of scarlet fever in 1924 in Moscow.

Sonia Delauney  Sonia Delaunay was a from a wealthy Jewish Ukrainian family and she became as multi-disciplinary abstract artist and key figure in the Parisian avant-garde in the 1920s. Alongside her husband, Robert Delaunay, she pioneered the movement Simultanism. She was a talented painter, interior, textile, stage-set and fashion designer. She was also the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964, and in 1975 was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor.


Tamara de Lempicka, was a Polish painter active in the 1920s and 1930s, who spent her working life in France and the United States. She is best-known for her polished Art-Deco portraits of aristocrats and the wealthy, and for her highly-stylized paintings of nudes. There was a resurgence of interest in her in the 1980s thanks to Madonna who used some of her images in her videos such as Vogue .

Frida Kahlo is another artist who was rediscovered and reinvented as a feminist icon in the 1980s, long after her suicide in the 1950s. She was a Mexican painter, who suffered prolonged ill-health, including polio as a child and injuries from a tram accident. Inspired by Mexican popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society. Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy.

Emily Carr of British Columbia. She was a Canadian artist and writer 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 late in her life.

Finally, I will end with a photographer whose work captured the suffering and deprivation of 1930s America during the Great Depression, Dorothea Lange. Her photographs of migrant workers were often presented with captions featuring the words of the workers themselves. I find her portraits of women and children of the Depression particularly affecting. Her first exhibition, held in 1934, established her reputation as a skilled documentary photographer. In 1940, she received the Guggenheim Fellowship.

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