Publication date November 9, 2023

Inspiring Women: 5 Famous Women Artists Throughout History

We often see that the history of art is filled with the names of great male artists, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and many more.

But what about female artists, who have helped shape the world’s visual history? 

Painting of historical women

Source: Artsy

As with many other fields, women were historically discouraged from pursuing a career in the arts, yet there were many incredible artists who broke the chain. 

In the 1970s, with the rise of feminism, the process of female participation started to increase. Female artists began to have shows at galleries and museums in ever greater numbers. 

Especially In the 20th century, people started appreciating women artists as their work was added to museum collections around the world. 

Here I have compiled a list of 5 famous women artists after going through art history.  These are some of the most significant female artists of all time, who made a major contribution to culture.

1. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1656)

Artemisia Gentileschi  painting

Source: Wikipedia

When we talk about a female painter from history, Artemisia Gentileschi is considered among the most accomplished 16th-century artists. 

This Italian Baroque painter was born in Rome and was the daughter of a Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi from whom she learned painting. 

Initially, she was a follower of Caravaggio, infusing his dramatic lighting and dynamic approach to figuration with a sensibility that we’d call feminist today. 

Later, Gentileschi experienced her own MeToo moment in 1611, when the artist Agostino Tassi raped her. After Tassi reneged on a promise to restore Artemisia’s honor by marrying her, the elder Gentileschi took him to court, with Artemisia as the star witness. 

Despite being overshadowed by many male members, she created incredible paintings from a female perspective, something that many of her peers could not do. 

As her artworks are violent mostly on her own lived experiences, it was her revenge, through paintings, for having been raped by the artist Agostino Tassi.

2. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842)

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

Source: Wikipedia

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was a completely self-taught artist and she is one of the most famous women artists today.  She eventually became an artist despite many major setbacks and was active during some of the most turbulent times in European history. 

At the time of Marie Antoinette, Élisabeth Louise was admitted into the French Academy at the young age of 28 as one of only four female members. 

She was particularly appreciated for her sympathetic portraits of aristocratic women, deemed more natural than the works of her contemporaries. 

During the Revolution, she traveled throughout Europe, impressively getting commissions in Florence, Naples, Vienna, Saint Petersburg, and Berlin before returning to France after the conflict settled.

3. Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)

Mary Cassatt

Source: Arthive

Marry Cassatt was one of three female visual artists and the only American officially associated with Impressionism. She was also a major force in the art world, helping to bring European art to American collectors.

In her times, Cassatt strongly believed that painting needed to reflect modern life. She is an inspiration for many female modern artists today. 

Her painting "In the Loge" is a great example of her work. It shows a woman sitting in a theater box, but instead of being a passive object, she is actively engaged in looking at the show. 

This is different from many other famous paintings of women in theater boxes, which often show them as being on display. Cassatt was a groundbreaking artist who helped to change the way women were portrayed in art. 

4. Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986)

In 1915 Georgia O'Keeffe was one of the first American artists to produce a purely abstract work of art. Many people know her for a widespread misconception that her paintings were thinly veiled renderings of vaginas. 

O’Keeffe rightly disliked this idea as her intention was to bridge the gap between abstraction and representation instead of creating symbols of female empowerment. 

Despite the fact that Georgia O'Keeffe painted scenes in various locations around the U.S., her work is most often associated with New Mexico. 

There she lived between 1934 and her death in 1986. Today, she is known as one of the most famous women artists of all time. 

5. Hannah Höch (1889–1978)

Hannah Höch art

Source: TheCollector

Höch played a vital role in the Berlin Dada movement during Germany’s Weimar era, following World War I. It was a period of political and economic turmoil, but also a time when artists could do a lot of new and different things.

Höch and her many contemporaries responded to the times with art that made fun of society and politics. They were not afraid to shock people.

The artist focused on the shifting roles of women and how men and women were becoming more alike. She saw this happening a lot in Berlin's nightclubs.

The Nazis didn't like Höch's art, so they called her a "degenerate artist." But Höch stayed in Berlin the whole time they were in power, even though it was dangerous.

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