50 Women Artists You Should Know, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


This beautifully produced, richly detailed and comprehensive survey of fifty influential women artists from the Renaissance to the Post-Modern era details their vast contributions to the art world.

From the Early Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi and the seventeenth-century illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian to Impressionists Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, and to modern icons such as Frida Kahlo, Georgia O Keefe and Louise Bourgeois, the most important female artists are profiled in this book in chronologically arranged double-page spreads.

For each artist there is a timeline highlighting significant events in her life; a succinct biography and information outlining her accomplishments and influence; additional resources to further study of the artist and, best of all, brilliant full-color reproductions of the artist s works.

Packed with information, here is a stunning and absorbing book that clearly illustrates the remarkable artistic contributions of women throughout history.




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The 50 woman artists in this collection include those from 16th century Renaissance to the present day, and represent a very wide range of styles. I saw a few old favorites here (Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, Berthe Morisot, and Camille Claudel), found some new favorites (the humanity of Kathe Kollwitz and the wild joie de vivre of Niki de Saint Phalle really struck me), and got an education on many others besides.There is shocking performance art, such as Marina Abramovic’s “Rhythm o” (1974), in which “she presented herself to gallery visitors as an object and handed them a series of real objects, including nails, alcohol, a whip, and a saw; some visitors became so involved she was almost killed during this event.”, and Mona Haoum’s “Under Siege” (1982), in which “naked and covered in clay in a polytheme container, she fought for hours to stand up, slipping and falling continuously, so that viewers were helpless bystanders of her role as a victim.” (aside from Haoum’s other work, such as the exquisite glass piece, “Silence”).As in the other “50” art series (side note, wow, wouldn’t it be great if this was more popular than the other “50” series?-), there are personal stories from the artists lives accompanying the pieces, some of which are tragic. Aside from those that involved dying young – Paula Modersohn-Becker (age 31, after childbirth), and Elisabetta Sirani (age 27, of a stomach ulcer), the ones that hit me hardest were those involving relationships. For example, Camille Claudel, and not just after her affair with Rodin (24 years older) had spiraled and ended in her claims of his plagiarism, but also in her spending the last 30 years of her life in a mental hospital, writing desperate letters to her brother which were ignored.There is also the story of Gabrielle Munter and Wassily Kandinsky living as bohemian lovers until the outbreak of WWI, at which point Kandinsky moved away, first writing enthusiastic letters, but then married someone else with no explanation as she waited in vain for him – and despite that, she preserved Kandinsky’s paintings alongside her own when the Nazis started rounding up “degenerate art”. Lastly, Constance Mayer, who had an affair with her tutor who was 17 years older, supporting him and his kids when his wife was institutionalized, and ultimately committed suicide when he wouldn’t marry her even after his wife died.There are references to the barriers that women had to overcome along the way, such as the public rape case of Aretemisia Gentileschi in 1611, following sexual advances from her teacher, artist Agostino Tassi, and unfairly acquiring a dubious reputation. It made me write “grrr” in the margins to see Goethe writing of Anjelica Kauffman that “she has incredible and – for a woman – huge talent”, and roll my eyes at Adelaide Labille-Guiard becoming the first woman to be permitted to set up a studio in the Louvre in the early 1790’s, after having been long refused because “the presence of women artists would corrupt the morals of the artists already working there”.But this is not a book about victims that overemphasizes those aspects, it’s a celebration of art.It’s easy to start to compare their works to better known male artists – for example, Gentileschi’s use of light and dark to Caravaggio’s (and in this case, she was a ‘disciple’), or the beautiful, loving mother that Elisabetta Sirani depicts In ‘Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist’ (c. 1660) to Raphael – and I suppose some of that is natural, but it’s important to see them as independent artists in their own right, not trying to be the equals of men, but to find their own artistic vision. Perhaps this is summarized best in the strength of Meret Oppenheim’s words about the female artist: “The taboos with which women have been held for thousands of years in a state of subjugation should no longer be regarded as valid. You will not be granted liberty. You must grasp it yourself.”

Also by Christiane Weidemann