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
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.