1. Catherina van Hemessen – Born in 1528 in Antwerp, Belgium. Van Hemessen trained under her father Jan Sanders van Hemessen and eventually helped him with his commissions as well as receiving her own. Her 1548 painting “Girl at the Spinet” is thought to be the earliest surviving self-portrait of an artist at work.
Creating mainly portraits, Van Hemessen’s subjects were often seated and were usually set against a dark or neutral background. There are no known works after 1554 after her marriage to Cathedral organist Chrétien de Morien. Van Hemessen died in Antwerp around 1587.
2. Paula Modersohn-Becker – Born on February 8, 1876 in Dresden-Friedrichstadt, Germany, Modersohn-Becker was one of the most important representatives of early expressionism. Women, motherhood and nature were frequent themes in Modersohn-Becker’s paintings. Her images consisted of thickly applied paint with forms that were rough and angular with bold outlines.
Sadly, Modersohn-Bercker’s career lasted just seven years. During that time, she produced more than 700 paintings and 1,000 drawings. On November 20, 1907, shortly after the birth of their daughter Mathilde, Modersohn-Becker died from an embolism. She was 31 years old.
3. Jenny Holzer – Born in 1950 in Gallipolis, Ohio, Holzer is an American conceptual artist known for LED sculptures. Holzer studied at Ohio University, Rhode Island School of Design, and the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Before she began working with text art, Holzer was an abstract artist, focusing on painting and printmaking.
As well as LEDs, Holzer also works with other media including bronze plaques, painted signs, stone benches and footstools, stickers, T-shirts, condoms, paintings, photographs, sound, video, light projection and the Internet. “Her works often speak of violence, oppression, sexuality, feminism, power, war and death. Her main concern is to enlighten, bringing to light something thought in silence and was meant to remain hidden.”
In 1990, Holzer became the first woman to design the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale and won the country prize for her work.
4. Lee Krasner – Born on October 27, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York, Krasner was an influential abstract expressionist painter and the wife of Jackson Pollock. From 1928-32, she studied at The Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design in New York, and worked on the WPA Federal Art Project from 1935 to 1943. In 1937, she took classes with Hans Hofmann, whose influence directed Krasner’s work toward neo-cubist abstraction.
In 1941, Krasner met Jackson Pollock and the couple married four years later. “During their marriage, she neglected her own artistic work, though she never regarded herself as inferior or dependent on Pollock”. From 1946–47, Krasner began to produce her first mature work, the “Little Image” series. “Three groups of Little Images emerged, all-over staccato dabs, thinly skinned, dripped linear networks and rows of tiny runic forms.
From 1953-55, Krasner moved into the medium of collage. She pasted large shapes cut from her own and Pollock’s discarded canvases in her works. Her admiration for Henri Matisse is shown in these and later works.
After Pollock’s death in 1956, Krasner created her most memorable paintings – “large gestural works generated by whole body movement. From 1959 to 1962, she poured out her feelings of loss in explosive bursts of sienna, umber and white. By the mid-1960s, she began painting lushly coloured, sharply focused, emblematic floral forms, taking a more lyrical and decorative Fauvist-inspired approach. During her last period of activity, the mid- to late 1970s, she returned to collage.”
Lee Krasner died in 1984 at the age of 75. Her will established the Pollock–Krasner Foundation whose purpose is to help artists in need.
5. Niki De Saint Phalle – Born on October 29, 1930 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris, France, Saint Phalle was a French sculptor, painter, and film maker. After the stock market crash in 1930, the family moved to New York. From 1948-49 de Saint Phalle worked as a model, appearing in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and on the cover of Life Magazine.
“De Saint Phalle is best known for her over-sized figures which embrace contradictory qualities such as good and evil, modern and primitive, sacred and profane, play and terror. Her exaggerated “earth mother” sculptures, the Nanas, playfully explore the ancient of feminine deities while celebrating modern feminism’s efforts to reconsider and revalue the woman’s body. In recent years de Saint Phalle made monsters and beasts into architectural forms for playgrounds and schools. These works demonstrate her deep interest in architects like Antoni Gaudi, who made organic fluid buildings incorporating wild fantasies and everyday objects.”
Near the end of her life, and after more than 20 years of work, De Saint Phalle’s sculpture garden, called Giardino dei Tarocchi, (Tarot Garden) opened in 1998. Niki de Saint Phalle died on May 21, 2002 at the age of 71 in La Jolla, California.
Sources: 50 Women Artists You Should Know, Wikipedia (Becker), Wikipedia (Holzer), Stuart Collection (de Saint Phalle), Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, Wikipedia, MoMA (Krasner),