Women Artists in History


Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)

Women artists have been invisible for much of history, especially earlier than the 19th Century. The notable exceptions are Artemisia Gentileschi and Hildegard von Bingen, and even these people are typically left out of art histories. Even when I was studying art history at college, I was left to discover Artemisia on my own – by chance.

But that was 30 years ago. Thankfully, the internet has arrived to help us more easily discover the creative work of women. Here are some wonderful sites:

This Facebook page is overflowing with awesome links.

This page starts pre-Renaissance and goes forward from there.

Current and recent artists here and here.

Ten women sculptors and ten contemporary sculptors.

Here is a review of a new book about the women of the Bauhaus.

Last, but not least, here is an in-depth article about women photographers.

One of the problems with discussing women artists has been the historical devaluing of arts thought of as feminine work, such as embroidery or quilting. The domestic arts were considered less worthy than such things as oil painting or sculpting in marble or bronze – so masculine, right? The idea was that women’s work tended to be diminutive – like miniaturists – not grand in scale. Therefore the very act of working in a male dominated medium is an act of defiance, as is working to large scale. The largest scale art might reasonably be considered architecture, where today women make up only 18% of licensed architects, and on average earn 20% less than male architects. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics) Yet, as with filmmaking and many other college level fine arts subjects of study, women make up more than half of the students in architecture courses.

There is still work to be done.

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