1. Frida Kahlo – July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954. Born in Coyoacán, Mexico, Kahlo survived many difficult events in her life. She began to paint while recovering in bed from a bus accident in 1925 that left her disabled. Although she made a partial recovery, she was never able to bear children, had numerous miscarriages, and underwent 32 operations before her death. Her paintings, mostly self-portraits, deal directly with her health and physical challenges. Kahlo was influenced by indigenous cultures of Mexico and European influences including Realism, Symbolism, and Surrealism.
Kahlo’s work was not widely recognized until years after her death. She was often remembered only as artist Diego Rivera’s wife. It was not until the early 1980s, when the artistic movement in Mexico known as Neomexicanismo began, that she became very prominent.
2. Mary Cassatt – May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926. Known for her depictions of women and children, Cassatt was one of the few active American artists in 19th century French avant-garde. The daughter of a prominent Pittsburgh family, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She traveled throughout Europe, settling permanently in Paris in 1874. In that year she exhibited at the Salon and in 1877 met Degas, with whom she maintained a close relationship. His art and ideas had a strong influence on her own work though she did not imitate his style. He introduced her to the Impressionists and she participated in several exhibitions between 1879 – 1886.
While in France, Cassatt sent paintings back to exhibitions in the United States that were among the first impressionist works seen in the US. By advising wealthy American patrons on acquisitions, she also played a vital role in forming some of the most important collections of impressionist art in America.
3. Emily Carr – December 13, 1871 – March 2, 1945. Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Carr moved to San Francisco in 1890 to study art after the death of her parents. In 1899 she traveled to England to study at the Westminster School of Art in London and other studio schools in England. In 1910, she spent a year studying art at the Académie Colarossi in Paris, France before moving back to British Columbia permanently.
Carr was strongly influenced by the landscape and First Nations cultures of British Columbia and Alaska. She did not receive recognition as an artist until she was 57 years of age. In the 1920s she came into close contact with members of the prominent Group of Seven (artists) after being invited by the National Gallery of Canada to participate in an exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern. She maintained a close relationship with the group and was included in their exhibitions.
Emily Carr is a Canadian icon. The fact that she was a woman challenged by the obstacles that faced women of her day, to become an artist of such originality and strength has made her a “darling of the Women’s Movement”.
4. Annie Leibovitz – October 2, 1949 – present. Born in 1949 in Connecticut, USA Leibovitz studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She became interested in photography when she lived in the Philippines, where her father was stationed during the Vietnam War with the Air Force.
Leibovitz began photographing for Rolling Stone magazine in 1969 while still a student in San Francisco. Famous for her iconic images of celebrities, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, in 1983 she became chief photographer for Vanity Fair. A regular contributor to Vogue as well, she is the winner of numerous awards and her work has been exhibited around the world. In addition to her portraiture, she has also photographed battered women, and the conflicts in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Rwanda. In 2005, American Photo named her the single most influential photographer working today.
5. Anna Mary Robertson Moses – September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961. Born in a farming community in Greenwich, N. Y, “Grandma Moses” began painting in her seventies after leaving a career in embroidery due to arthritis. A self-taught, renowned folk artist, Moses painted mostly scenes of rural life. In the years directly after World-War-II, Moses was one of the most successful and famous artists in America, and possibly the best known American artist in Europe.
Her simple realism and nostalgic subject matter with which she portrayed farm life and the rural countryside, gained her a large following. She was a prolific painter and during her lifetime she created more than 1,000 paintings. Moses received honorary doctoral degrees from Russell Sage College in 1949 and from the Moore Institute of Art, Science and Industry, Philadelphia, in 1951.