I am very excited to have Karen Rought here today as my guest blogger. She and I met through Twitter because she listens to Glee Chat and had been tweeting about it. Through the course of our conversations we discovered that we were both writers and a wonderful friendship was born. Since then she has started her own blog, The Midnight Novelist, where she can “finally spill the contents of [her] mind out into the world for everyone to see” and I promise you it is well worth a visit. She is a nerd after my own heart and I am so grateful for all the support she has given me since we met. Take it away, Karen!
* * *
I’d first like to start off by thanking Jess for letting me guest post for her – it’s an honor! I hope you guys enjoy this post as much as I enjoy reading Jess’.
My Favorite Female Artists
If I asked you to name five famous artists right now, on the spot, who would you pick? Da Vinci? Michelangelo? Degas, Renoir, or Van Gogh? Those are the ones that came to my head first. But what’s missing? Any takers?
Um, how about those females? It might not be surprising to hear that there aren’t a whole lot of female artists that have broken out of the crowd and become as famous as their male counterparts. Even the earliest female artists were more like crafters – weavers, quilters, and jewelry makers.
That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of professional artists as well, like sculptors and painters. Just as it is with male artists, it can be very difficult in the classical world (think: Greek and Roman) to find out who has created the masterpieces that have survived to this day. We start seeing signed pieces in the years after this era, throughout the Medieval period and up through the Renaissance and beyond.
If you’re unfamiliar with any female artists, I’m here to help. Below you’ll find a list of my top five favorite female artists:
Mary Cassatt is considered to be one of the best American artists (of either gender) in her generation. She was born in 1844, in Pittsburgh. She found Paris a little more exciting, though, and moved there in order to continue her painting career. Mary was an Impressionist, and had learned from many of the greats of her time (Manet and Degas among them).
My favorite thing about her, though, was her ability to paint women in a way that had rarely been seen before. She didn’t paint them as part of the background, and she didn’t paint them as nudes. Instead, she made women the subject of the painting and painted them doing things and living their lives. You can see this clearly in her painting Woman and Child Driving, which showcases the two females in the front of the carriage. The male chauffeur is actually in the back, riding as a passenger.
It was hard enough being a woman in the mid-1800’s, but how about a half African-American, half Native American woman? She was raised as a Chippewa Indian and was born in Albany, New York. Despite these obvious obstacles, Edmonia created beautiful and realistic sculptures. And they weren’t frilly, girly statues, either. Many of them made serious political and cultural statements.
Forever Free is my favorite artwork from Edmonia. It is made out of marble and depicts a woman kneeling in prayer, with an African American man standing next to her. He is raising his left arm to show his broken bonds of slavery.
Rosa was born in France in 1822 and was something of a different creature in a world of figure painters. Not only were her subjects mainly animals, but she chose to paint them in peaceful and natural scenes. Many painters before her depicted animals in a savage way – violent and bloody. They tended to represent the untamed wilderness or (for Christian painters) evil and troublesome beings. Rosa’s paintings, particularly the ones that depict horses, were a far cry from that norm.
My favorite painting from Rosa is The Horse Fair. The naturalism of the horses is incredible, and the entire scene is fluid and mesmerizing. This was her masterpiece, and it was widely accepted by critics and the public.
If I told you to pick just one female artist off the top of your head, chances are Frida Kahlo would be one of your choices. She was a famous and influential painter, though I’m sure most people know her monobrow self portraits more than her life as a painter. She actually had a wonderful life, though it was sometimes turbulent. She was born in 1910 in Mexico. She was married to the famed Diego Rivera – it was a stormy relationship, to say the least, and one that gave much inspiration to her paintings.
If Mary Cassatt set the standard for “flawed” (read: realistic) women in art, Frida took it one step further. Yes, that’s really what she looked like – monobrow and all. She painted what she saw in the mirror, and she painted her own reality. Her work was often full of symbolism (she was a Surrealist) and especially showed her pride in being of Amerindian descent (more specifically, Aztec). You can see this in her Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.
This girl rocks, if not for her amazing art than for her sheer will to live on after everything that happened to her. Her father was Orazio Gentileschi, an Italian painter who produced works in Caravaggio’s style. Naturally, Artemisia also developed a Caravaggesque style. She was incredibly talented, so her father sent her to work with Agostino Tassi – a successful artist who was receiving major commissions for paintings that were to be put up in Roman palaces. Tassi was a horrible man. He raped Artemisia and continued to have sexual relations with her. He promised to marry her – and in so doing restore her honor and respectability – but he had no intention of fulfilling it. Orazio sued Tassi, and Artemisia had to go to trial…where she was tortured on the stand with thumbscrews (a 17th century lie detector). Tassi went to prison, but was eventually released. Artemisia was publicly humiliated.
Artemisia eventually moved on. She married a Florentine and moved to Florence. Caravaggio had very little influence there, and she did her part to spread his style in that area of Italy. Judith Decapitating Holofernes is arguably her most famous work. When comparing it to Caravaggio’s painting of the same subject, you can see the similarities in style. However, Artemisia’s is far more violent and dramatic – due in part to her own violent history. She was an incredible painter – and I don’t just mean female painter – and despite the times and restraints placed on women, she still came out on top. The style, subject, and naturalism of her painting of Judith makes Artemisia my all time favorite female artist.
So, what did you guys think? Did I introduce you to some new artists? Did you like any of them? Let me know what you think in the comments below. (I’ll also be hovering in case you have any questions! This was a super basic rundown on some very prolific and complicated individuals, and I had to keep it short and sweet so you guys didn’t fall asleep. )