Saturday, May 17, 2014

Women and Art

Here's a compendium of links to the current wealth of television and articles online about Women and Art.

BBC - The Story of Women in Art

This is a three part series featuring Professor Amanda Vickery, Professor in Early Modern History at Queen Mary College, University of London.

Her programmes explore how there is an absence of female artists on the walls of art galleries and museums. She reveals the ways in society and culture demanded women behave in a certain way and hence confined and inhibited female creativity

She examines those artists whose reputations have faded into obscurity and comments on one of the reasons being the way their artwork is currently hidden from the public. I knew some but very definitely not all the artists featured in the programme.

All the episodes are available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 1 - Amanda Vickery tells the stories of the early female artists across Europe. This features:

  • Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588) a self-taught nun-artist—the first-known female painter of Florence, Italy and her absolutely enormous painting of The Last Supper (7 metres long)

  • Sofonisba Anguissola (b. 1532 - 1625) - an artist at the court of King Phillip II of Spain. She was a remarkable draughtswoman when it came to drawing people and became a pioneer of the new genre - the conversation piece. She impressed both Michaelangelo in her youth and Van Dyck in her old age. Her most famous painting - featured in the programme - portrays her sisters playing chess - where the personalities of the three sisters all shine through. He new style of portraiture attracted new clients and got her an introduction to the Spanish Court - at the time of the great rules of Spanish Court Portraiture. Her earlier paintings then transformed into court portraiture painted according to the rules of the court and the time.
    Portrait of the Artist's Sisters Playing Chess (1555) by Sofonisba Anguissola
    Oil on canvas, 72 x 97 cm
    Muzeum Narodowe, Poznan
      Self Portrait - by Lavinia Fontana
    • Lavinia Fontana (1552 - 1614) - she was the first woman artist to work in the same way as men. She operated outside the restrictions of convent (Sister Plautilla Nelli) or court (Sofonisba Anguissola). She was a female portrait painter who produced 200-300 paintings in her lifetime and was also pregnant 11 times. She became the portraitist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen.  You can see some of her artwork here
    • Artemesia Gentileschi (1593 - ) She had supreme belief in her own talent and skill and tackled the epic from the outset - for example Susanna and the Elders. Her depiction of the story brings a female perspective and also demonstrates amazing skill in painting at the age of 17.  Violence against men features in her painting of Judith and her maidservant - and the assassination of Holofernes (whose head is in the basket.)  This is a website about Artemesia
      Judith and her maidservant by Artemisia Gentileschi

      Clara Peeters - Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels
      Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels from circa 1615 by Clara Peeters
      • The Dutch Republic in the 17th century also had female artists.  Art in the Netherlands was on a more domestic scale. There was an obsessive preoccupation with the home. A new genre - the still life - was an area where women artists such as Clara Peeters, Joanna Koerten (a paper cutter who outsold Rembrandt) and Judith Leyster could excel. Leyster's painting The Proposition is discussed in the programme. I was particularly pleased to see that Maria Sybilla Merian is also highlighted by the programme. She invented the concept of painting the life cycle of insects with their host plants, revolutionised scientific study and trekked to the tropics to paint her notions of how nature should be represented.
      Episode 2 - The story reaches the 18th century. The focus turns to the industrial powerhouse that is Britain and the French Court of Marie Antoinette.

      Episode 3 - an illustration of how creative opportunities for women exploded in the 20th century. She travels from London and Paris to the remote Swedish countryside and the bleak desert landscape of New Mexico. The programme features Georgia O'Keeffe.

      You can view clips from the series online

      I very much like the enthusiasm and historical knowledge which Amanda Vickery brings to bear on her topic. She's a historian rather than an art critic but adds value because of that.

      I also love the detective story element - she unpicks the stories behind the paintings, she shows us the coded messages revealed by the paintings for those 'in the know'.

      I'm certainly going to be following this series through to the end - if I don't get there a bit sooner. The BBC have taken the unusual step of making the programmes available on iPlayer prior to broadcast - so you can access them all now!

      Guardian articles

      Amanda Vickery continues her theme in an article on the Guardian which is well worth a read

      Other websites

      The following focus on women artists

      The programme has prompted me to update my website All About Women Artists!

      Makingamark on women and art

      I've written a few posts in the past about women and art


      1. A wonderful, inspiring post, Katherine, thank you. This is a subject very close to my heart.

      2. i love to read biographies of women artists (there aren't anywhere near as many as of men)
        especially women illustrators
        i am so thrilled you posted on this, maybe slowly we'll be remembered
        vi (duck house)

      3. Yeah, I too wonder what we miss because art by women artists doesn't get its due.
        I discovered one, in a small pamphlet of a book in a museum bookstore after attending an exhibit.
        Have hardly heard of her art since and too bad because her art, although is online here and there, really has not been pushed out there that much and could otherwise be enjoyed by many.

        The artist Gladys Nelson Smith.

        This link is the best I could find on her.

        Click 'View Artist's Page' at bottom to see some of her work or Google her name


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