History has not been kind to women. Especially to women who dared to defy societal norms and blaze their own trails. This post is dedicated to 5 such women artists who have made their place in history and immortalized their names through their wonderful art.
1. Rosa Bonheur
Rosa Bonheur, a French realist artitst, is widely considered to be the most famous female painter of the nineteenth century. Her two most famous work – ‘Ploughing in the Nivernais’ and ‘The Horse Fair’, brought her much renown and recognition among both the masses and her contemporaries. During her time, women were not encouraged to pursue art as a career and were allowed education in this field with much reluctance. Despite the obstacles posed by society at the time, Rosa Bonheur went on to become an internationally recognised artist who proved that women could excel in this field alongside men.
She was bestowed exceptional laurels like the Legion of Honour by the Empress Eugénie of France.
Many of her art pieces depict scenes from the french countryside in exquisite detail. She often studied her subject for days drawing many sketches to catch all the intricacies of a scene.
Her monumental work ‘The Horse Fair’ is an oil on canvas painting measuring eight feet by sixteen feet. She attended the horse market in Paris, dressed in male clothing, twice a week for almost one and a half years, drawing sketches in preparation for her best known painting.
The painting currently resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is considered one of the best works of art in their collection.
2. Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the most influential female artist of her times, is considered the Mother of American Modernism.
From an early age she was intent on becoming an artist. She received her training from a series of art schools before finally venturing out on her own.
During the course of her career she produced a vast collection of paintings and sketches which were highly acclaimed by the art community.
Her art has been the subject of much speculation both during and after her lifetime. Many drawing Freudian interpretations from her paintings of magnified views of flowers and claiming that they possessed feminist undertones. O’keeffe for the large part was indifferent to such speculations.
She was known as a loner and spent her last days at her ranch in New Mexico.
3. Mary Cassatt
She was considered one of the three leading female artists for Impressionism.
She was among the group of artists both in Europe and elsewhere who were breaking away from confines of academic traditions of art in search of new and radical methods.
Despite facing many financial obstacles early in her career she persevered in her search for a unique style of her own. During a low point in her career she found a mentor in Edgar Degas and was introduced to impressionism. Having thus expanded her horizons she went on to produce some of the best works of her career.
Mary Cassatt depicted the “New Woman” of the 19th century from the woman’s perspective. As a successful and highly trained woman artist who remained unmarried all her life, Cassatt personified the “New Woman”.
Some of her most remarkable paintings depict the serenity of women engaged in mundane tasks and the profound tenderness of the relationship between mother and child.
4. Kay Sage
Kay Sage was an American Surrealist artist who was a prominent member of the Post- War period of surrealism. Her paintings often contained elements of architectural nature combined with surrealist undertones.
She created the majority of her noted works during her tumultuous marriage to surrealist artist Yves Tanguy between 1940 -1955. Her husband’s sudden death in 1955 had a devastating effect on her.
In her journal entry dated August 1962 she wrote ““I have said all that I have to say. There is nothing left for me to do but scream.” In January 1962 she committed suicide.
Art historian Whitney Chadwick has said that Sage’s paintings were “imbued with an aura of purified form and a sense of motionlessness and impending doom found nowhere else in Surrealism.”
5. Frida Kahlo
“I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.” – Frida Kahlo
Needless to say Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican artist, was as intense as they come. At nineteen years of age she suffered a devastating accident, barely escaping death with serious injuries.
The isolation forced upon her during recovery lead her to explore her artistic talents and she began to paint while confined to her bed. She mostly painted self portraits, saying once that – “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”
She was greatly influenced by the Mexican artist, and her future husband, Diego Rivera who lent her advice and encouragement in her formative years.
Her works were also greatly influenced by the Mexican culture its traditions as is evident from her use of bright colours and symbols from the culture in her paintings.
Her injuries from her accident in her young age followed her throughout her life. In 1954, at the age of 47 she died after a prolonged illness. A few days before her death she wrote in her diary – “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return — Frida”.