Think of the big artists in the world? Maybe Van Gogh comes to your mind or even Warhol or Pollock. All of these have something in common: they are men. But, what happens to women in art?
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Most of the time, women’s work in art is not seen or not talked about; however, there are plenty of female artists who not only pursue a career in a once considered men’s world but have also set the foundations for many styles from the Italian Renaissance to American Modernism.
These are some famous female artists that broke barriers, put aside gender stereotypes, and set the bases for more women to come to pursue and explore their artistic side.
Catharina van Hemessen (1528-1588)
She is the earliest female Flemish painter and is known for her series of small-scall female portraits. Catharina is said to have created the very first self-portrait of an artist seated at an easel.
Sofonisba Anguissola (1535-1625)
Coming from a relatively poor noble family in Italy, she was encouraged by her father to incorporate fine arts in her education. Later, she carried on an informal mentorship with none other than Michelangelo.
She faced too many obstacles just for the fact of being a woman, like not being able to study anatomy or practice drawing models because it was considered vulgar.
However, she persisted and later was appointed a painter in the court of King Philip II of Span, developing intimate portraits of nobility. You can read more about her here.
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1653)
Artemisa is considered one of the most skilled painters of the Italian Baroque and no wonder why. She was the very first woman to be admitted to the Florentine Academy of Fine Arts which had the patronage of the Medici Family.
Èlisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1776-1794)
This French portrait artist started painting professionally when she was a teenager, encouraged by her father. Later, she was chosen to be Marie Antoinette’s portrait painter thanks to her style that falls between the Rococo and Neoclassical periods.
Èlisabeth is considered a revolutionary painter thanks to the natural and relaxed manner to portray the upper classes.
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Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)
The French Realist painter is considered one of the most famous female artists of the 19th century. She put special attention to sketching live animals in motions, which made her be known for her ability to capture their likeness on canvas.
Rosa is also celebrated for breaking gender stereotypes. In the mid-1850s, she obtained authorization by the police to wear men’s dresses, trousers, and loose blouses. She also was an open lesbian and had a relationship with Nathalie Micas for over 40 years, something not very common in her era.
Hilma af Klint (1862–1944)
This Swedish artist is one of the pioneers of abstract art, however, she was often overlooked by her peers like Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky.
She used to paint and draw diagrams as a way to visually represent complex spiritual ideas.
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Considered the “mother of American modernism”, this painter is known for her flower paintings and New Mexico landscapes.
Lyubov Popova (1889-1924)
This Russian artist is considered to be one of the most influential women in art. She developed her own variant of non-objective art based on a combination of principles of icon painting and avant-garde ideas.
Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980)
This polish artist is known for her portraits that exemplify the Art Deco era. Her paintings used to include themes like desire, seduction, and sensuality, something revolutionary at the time.