How To Talk About Art History

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Tag: Female Artists (Page 1 of 2)

Artist Feature: Who Was Amrita Sher-Gil?

Oil painting on canvas of a woman with light brown skin and black hair swept up in a yellow beret. She is sitting next to a table with only her torso visible. Her head is turned in profile looking towards our left. Her left hand is resting on the table in front of her next to a small gold-coloured bowl.

Amrita Sher-Gil, Self-portrait (Untitled), 1931, oil on canvas, private collection

Movement/Style: A mixture of Western modernism and traditional Indian art styles

Country: Hungary and India

Years: 1913 – 1941

Well, who was she?

Amrita Sher-Gil was a Hungarian-Indian painter who was born in Hungary and moved to India later in her life. She’s known as a pioneer of modern Indian art, and is one of the most influential Indian women artists in history. Her work portrayed the lives of women, especially Indian women, and her style evolved from Western influences to classical Indian influences.

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“Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”: A Case Study

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This post is a collaboration with Jennifer Dasal from the ArtCurious Podcast, in which we’ve both taken art historian Linda Nochlin’s 1971 article, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” and talked about it from new, contemporary perspectives. Go check out Jennifer’s episode here!

It’s easy for the average person to name one or two famous artists throughout history. Most can probably even manage nine or ten. But specify female artists, and things get a lot more difficult.

Even when people can name a few female artists, there’s usually only a small repertoire that gets repeated over and over: Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Cassatt, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Marina Abramović. Only a handful of female artists have become famous enough to become (somewhat) household names. Why is that? Why have there been no great women artists? That’s the famous art historical question I’ll be answering today, by looking at five specific women artists – along with five gender-related reasons for why they’ve been left out of art history.

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Where were all the female Abstract Expressionists?

Abstract painting with blue shapes on a black background. A mix of large rectangular blocks and smaller curvilinear shapes.

Blue & Black (1951 – 53), by female Abstract Expressionist Lee Krasner

Reader question: “I wonder if there have been women engaging in abstract expressionist art and if we maybe only don’t know them because Clement Greenberg forgot to tell us about them?” – asked by Natascha

Short answer: Yes! There were plenty of women engaging in Abstract Expressionist art that simply never gained the fame and recognition that their male counterparts did. Perhaps more so than any other art movement (except for maybe Neoclassicism and Minimalism), Abstract Expressionism has always been regarded as a highly masculinised movement. While it’s true that female artists were often systematically excluded and/or marginalised within the movement (hint: most of them used male pseudonyms), they were definitely there, and deserve as much attention as the men.

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Artist Feature: Who was Marie Bracquemond?

Image description: Black and white etching in a realistic style. A woman in a dress is sitting on a chair holding a paintbrush and palette. She's looking at an easel standing in front of her, which the viewer can only see the back of.

Self-portrait (19th century), Marie Bracquemond

Note: This Artist Feature is part of an ongoing series to document the female artists whose articles were added or improved on Wikipedia during the Art + Feminism edit-a-thon I organised in March 2016.

Movement/Style: Impressionism

Country: France

Years: 1840 – 1916

Well, who was she?

In 1928, French art historian Henri Focillon wrote that there were three ”grande dames” of Impressionism: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt and Marie Bracquemond. These three artists are practically the only female Impressionists who have managed to reach long-standing fame. Of these, Marie Bracquemond is arguably the least known.

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Lesbianism and Queer Women in Art History: Where Are They?

Two naked women are on a bare ground next to a big jungle. One of them is lying with her head in the other's lap. The ground is cracking next to them with roots showing. A small monkey is visible in the jungle, watching the pair.

Two Nudes in the Forest (The Earth Itself) (1939), Frida Kahlo

Reader Question: ‘I’m wondering about lesbian art, i.e. art depicting lesbian lovers. What are some of the oldest examples of this? The reason I’m asking is because we know quite a lot about homosexuality between men in the old days, and I have even heard some people say that homosexuality between women is a “modern phenomenon”.’

This is an important topic for me. That’s because I, the art historian behind this blog, happen to be a queer woman. (Not exactly a big shocker to anyone who knows me.)

This means that I’m always on the lookout for representations of relationships and identities like my own in art, media and pop culture. But while art history is filled with opposite-sex love stories, what about lesbian and other queer female visibility in art? Is it even there at all?

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Artist Feature: Who is Bu Hua?

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Beauty No. 3 (2008), Bu Hua. Giclée print. Image courtesy of the artist and White Rabbit Collection.

Note: This Artist Feature is part of an ongoing series to document the female artists whose articles were added or improved on Wikipedia during the Art + Feminism edit-a-thon I organised in March 2016.

Movement/Style: Digital art, flash animation

Country: China.

Years: 1973 – still alive!

Well, who is she?

Bu Hua (卜桦) is a striking figure in the (relatively short) history of digital art. She has become well known for her digital artworks and specifically her flash animations. She was introduced to Flash in the early 2000s and published her first animation works on the now-defunct Chinese website flashempire.com in 2002. Since then she has kept creating digital art, exploring themes relating to life in contemporary China, such as growing urban development, the destruction of Chinese cultural heritage, and the uneasy meeting between China and the West.

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Artist Feature: Who is Xiao Lu?

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Xiao Lu. Image from http://www.liveaction.se/

Note: This Artist Feature is part of an ongoing series to document the female artists whose articles were added or improved on Wikipedia during the Art + Feminism edit-a-thon I co-organised in March 2016.

Movement/Style: Contemporary performance, installation and video art.

Country: China.

Years: 1962 – still alive!

Well, who is she?

Xiao Lu (肖鲁) is a Chinese artist who rose to worldwide fame when she participated in the 1989 China Avant-garde Exhibition with her work, Dialogue. Two hours into the exhibition, she shot her own work with a pellet gun and caused the exhibition to immediately shut down. Her actions were seen as a threat to the Chinese government and she was instantly detained. Four months later, when the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred, her gunshots were dubbed “the first gunshots of Tiananmen”.

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Artist Feature: Who is Tracey Moffatt?

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Self Portrait, 1999. Image from the Roslyn Oxley 9 gallery, Sydney. www.roslynoxley9.com.au/artists/26/Tracey_Moffatt

Note: This Artist Feature is part of an ongoing series to document the female artists whose articles were added or improved on Wikipedia during the Art + Feminism edit-a-thon I co-organised in March 2016.

Movement/Style: Contemporary photography and video art.

Country: Australia.

Years: 1960 – still alive!

Well, who is she?

Tracey Moffatt is one of Australia’s most famous and internationally renowned artists. She works with both film and photography and her work is very cinematic and theatrical. She’s especially famous for her dramatically staged narrative photographs.

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Site Update: “Art + Feminism” Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

art+feminism

Tonight, I co-hosted the Bangkok edition of the global ‘Art + Feminism’ Wikipedia campaign.

Nine people total came together in a Bangkok café to learn about Wikipedia, to find out about art and to add/edit/translate articles about woman-identified artists to improve coverage of women-identified artists across the world. At the end of the night, these were our accomplishments:

– Creation of article about Chinese artist Xiao Lu.
– Creation of article about Bengali artist Pratima Devi.
– Translation of article about Indigenous Australian artist Tracey Moffatt into Italian.
– Translation of article about Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook into Thai.
– Translation of article about Chinese artist Bu Hua into English.
– Addition of Xiao Lu’s participation into article about the China Avant-garde Exhibition 1989.
– Addition of the following quote into article about French artist Marie Bracquemond: “The severity of Monsieur Ingres frightened me… because he doubted the courage and perseverance of a woman in the field of painting… He would assign to them only the painting of flowers, of fruits, of still lifes, portraits and genre scenes.”

Over the next few months, I will be creating Artist Features about each of these artists on this blog.

Thank you to everyone who participated, and to everyone who will continue researching, writing and learning about women-identified artists!

Art History 101: The Female Nude

Art in Island's reimagined version of Francois Boucher's Nude on a Sofa, complete with two young boys sneaking a peek at her butt to truly emphasize that

Art in Island‘s reimagined version of Francois Boucher’s Nude on a Sofa, complete with two children sneaking a peek at her butt. Photo by me.

I recently visited the interactive art museum Art In Island in Manila, where visitors are encouraged to take photographs with large murals painted on the walls. Some of these murals are inspired by famous works of art, and some are inspired by famous works of art featuring naked women. Seeing the way that these female bodies had been recontextualised, into a space where visitors were encouraged to interact with them, made me realize something: it’s time to talk about the Female Nude in art history.

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