1. Artemisia Gentileschi – July 8, 1593–ca. 1656: Born in Rome, Italy, and influenced by Caravaggio, Gentileschi is considered to be one of the most accomplished painters of the early Baroque period. She was trained by her father and well known artist Orazio Gentileschi as well as artist Agostino Tassi. Tassi raped the 18 year old Artemisia and promised to marry her but was eventually arrested. Tassi’s trial received a great deal of attention, and negatively affected her reputation, prompting her to move to Florence where she had a successful career.
As a result of her experiences, the heroines in Gentileschi’s paintings, depict powerful women enacting revenge on malicious males. Her style was influenced by dramatic realism and strong contrast of light and dark.
At a time of a male dominated art world, Gentileschi was the first female painter to be accepted as a member of the Acadamia di Arte del Disengo in Florence, Italy. She was also one of the first female artists to paint historical and religious themes, a skill thought to be beyond the intellectual abilities of women.
2. Judy Chicago – July 20, 1939: Born Judy Cohen, Judy Chicago is an American artist (sculpture, drawings, paintings), author, feminist, and educator, whose work and life are “models for an enlarged definition of art, an expanded role for the artist, and a woman’s right to freedom of expression”.
Between 1974 and 1979, with the participation of hundreds of volunteers, Chicago created her most well-known work, “The Dinner Party“. The multimedia project, a symbolic history of women in Western Civilization, has been seen by more than one million viewers during its 16 exhibitions held at venues in six countries.
Chicago has a Bachelor and Masters of Art from the University of California Los Angeles. She has received numerous awards, and has honorary doctorates from Duke University, Lehigh University, Smith College, and Russell Sage College. Chicago’s work is housed in the collections of major museums including: The British Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Getty Trust, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
3. Julia Margaret Cameron – June 11 1815 – January 26, 1879: Born in Calcutta, India to a British official of the East India Company and the daughter of French aristocrats, Cameron was educated in France but returned to India in 1838 and married jurist Charles Hay Cameron. The couple moved to London in 1848 where they were aligned with the elite circles of Victorian society.
Cameron did not take up photography until the age of 48, when her daughter gave her a camera as a gift. She enlisted friends and family for her photographs and used an artistic approach that differed from the commercial studios of the time – an approach for which she was often criticized.
Known for her closely framed portraits and illustrative allegories based on religious and literary works, some of Cameron’s subjects include Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, and others.
Cameron’s photographs, particularly her closely cropped portraits, had a significant impact on the evolution of modern photography. As well, her portraits of major historical figures, are often the only remaining photographs and record of the time. She was meticulous in registering her photographs with the copyright office and kept detailed records which is why many of her works survive today.
4. Elizabeth Catlett Mora – April 15, 1915 -April 2, 2012: Born in Washington, D.C., Catlett graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C.in 1935, where she studied design, printmaking and drawing. In 1940, she studied under painter Grant Wood and sculptor Henry Stinson and became the first student to receive an M.F.A. in sculpture from the State University of Iowa .
In 1947, Catlett married Mexican artist Francisco Mora, and made Mexico her permanent home. In 1958, she became the first female professor of sculpture and head of the sculpture department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, School of Fine Arts, San Carlos, in Mexico City where she continued to teach until her retirement in 1975.
Catlett is best known for her abstract wood and stone sculptures of archetypal African American women. She is also an accomplished printmaker and has produced lithographs and linocuts that celebrate the heroic lives of African American women.
Catlett’s work reflects a social and political concern that she shares with the Mexican muralists. Using her art to bring awareness to causes including the African-American experience and the plight of the lower classes, many of her works illustrate the diverse roles of women as mothers, workers, and activists.
Catlett received many awards including the Women’s Caucus For Art and has an honorary Doctorate from Pace University, in New York. She is represented in numerous collections throughout the world including the Institute of Fine Arts, Mexico, the Museum of Modern Art, NY, Museum of Modern Art, Mexico, National Museum of Prague, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum, NY.
Catlett remained an active artist until her death on April 2, 2012 at the age of 96.
5. Berthe Morisot – January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895: Born to a prosperous family in Bourges, Cher, France, Berthe Morisot was encouraged at an early age to become an artist and studied with neoclassical painter Geoffroy-Alphonse Chocarne.
Characteristic of Impressionist art, Morisot painted her daily experiences and reflected 19th century cultural expectations of her gender and class. Her works include landscapes, family and domestic life, portraits, garden settings and boating scenes.
Morisot worked with pastels and watercolors and oil, and experimented with lithography and drypoint etching in her later years. She first exhibited at the Salon de Paris in 1864 at the age of 23 and continued to show there regularly until 1873, just prior the first Impressionist exhibition.
Morisot grew to be a key member of the group of Impressionists. Her home was a meeting place for painters and writers including Renoir, Degas, Mary Cassatt, and Stéphane Mallarmé. She participated in the Drouot sale of 1875, where the artists were greatly criticized. Her paintings, however, were purchased at slightly higher prices than those of Renoir, Monet, and Sisley.
Undervalued for over a century, she is now considered among the finest of the Impressionist painters.
Sources:Artemisia Gentileschi.com, Met Museum, Wikipedia, Judy Chicago.com, Met Museum, MoMA, Wikipedia, Cleveland Museum of Art, Wikipedia
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