Let us start with a small exercise. Think about 10 of the world’s greatest art painters of all time and write it down on a piece of paper.
Now, try to find a woman from that list.
Is there any?
Maybe one or possibly none! This only proves the dominance of men in the world of art painting. However, there are a few women artists, who managed to taste the sweetness of success in the world of art.
Artists like Mary Beale, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe etc are only some of them. Let us look at some of the greatest women artists’ world has ever seen.
1. Mary Beale
Mary Beale is an artist from the 17th century, which is commonly referred as Baroque Era. She was one of the best portrait painters of that time. She was also the first professional female English painter.
It was during the later part of 17th century that Mary Beale got recognition as a painter. Through painting, she made many friends in the field and became acquainted with people like the then Archbishop of Canterbury.
2. Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun
Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun is considered as one of the most important female painters of the 18th century. She mostly painted portraits and some of her works were greatly acclaimed by famous critics of that time. Following the French Revolution, she travelled to countries like Russia, Rome etc. and this is when her works started to get valued.
She painted some of the famous rulers of these countries at that time. Following her popularity, she was invited to England and there she went on to paint some more famous personalities including Lord Byron.
3. Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt was an artist who was once described as ‘one of the three great ladies of impressionism’ by Gustave Geffroy. Born in America, Mary Cassatt spent most of her life in France. It was during the 1890s that she found herself at the peak of her career. During this time, she organized many art exhibitions and also became inspiration for many young American female painters. Even today, her paintings seem to fetch lot of attention and more than $2.9 million worth paintings of Mary Cassatt have been sold till date.
4. Elizabeth Thompson
Elizabeth Thompson is another famous British painter, but with a distinction. She is among few female painters who became famous by painting historical events. Most events she painted were military battles of that time. She was married to a Lieutenant in military and this might explain the reason behind paintings of battles. Some of her famous paintings include ‘The Roll Call’, ‘The Defence of Rorke’s Drift’ and ‘Scotland Forever’. In an autobiography, she explains, “I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism“.
5. Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo is perhaps the most recognized woman painter of the 20th century. Most of her paintings are self portraits and for this, isolation from other people can be said as a reason. She had an accident as a teenager that caused some health problems forcing her to be alone for most times. She once said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” However, the fact is, she was never famous among the public when she was alive. A new style of Mexican art painting, ‘Neomexicanismo’, is what made her famous. But, this happened couple of decades after her death.
6. Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi is a painter who is considered as one of the greatest painters of her time, after Michelangelo. Her accomplishments shine better considering the fact it was a time when women painters were not entertained that much. She still managed to make it to the Academy of Fine Arts, Italy, and became the first woman to do so. Most times, her paintings depicted suffering women from myths and Bible. ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ is the painting she is best known for.
7. Georgia O’Keeffe
This is another famous American born woman painter who became inspiration for many women in the country. She started her painting career with charcoal painting and later moved to oil painting. Her paintings mostly depicted buildings of New York of her time. However, she became famous for her flowers paintings. America honored her with National Medal of Arts and Presidential Medal of Freedom- the highest civilian medal.
8. Sonia Delaunay
Sonia Delaunay, a French artist, was one of the cofounders of Orphism Art Movement. This is an art movement, actually derived from Cubism, which uses bright and dark colors with certain geometric shapes. She is also the first woman painter to have an exhibition at the great Louvre and following her achievements, she was also made an officer of French Legion of Honor. One of her paintings, ‘Coccinelle’, even featured on a series of French postal stamps which were rolled out in 2004.
9. Helen Frankenthaler
Helen Frankenthaler was an abstract style artist who contributed a lot to the postwar American art. Her paintings have been on exhibition for the last six decades. She understood the changing needs of abstract art and continued to produce new styles of abstract work. She never faced much trouble for being a female painter and she once said, “For me, being a ‘lady painter’ was never an issue. I don’t resent being a female painter. I don’t exploit it. I paint.”
10. Sigrid Hjerten
Sigrid Hjerten was a famous modernist painter from Sweden. She is considered a prominent figure in the modernist movement in Sweden. During 30 years of her career, she participated in 106 art exhibitions. She fought her way through to the top and was continuously fighting for her spot in art world. She has only around 500 paintings to her name, but even that was enough to take her to the top.
Even though the struggle women painters had to face, some of them still managed to beat the over dominance of man in the world of art. Most paintings by artists like Mary Cassatt, Artemisia Gentileschi etc. are still hot favorites of art collectors and lovers around the world. However, paintings are not the most valuable contribution of these women artists; the kind of inspiration they are for other women to come forward in the field of art painting is much more valuable.
So, who is your favourite woman artist? Share with us via comments.