If becoming an artist was a pipe dream for just anyone, it was almost impossible if you happened to be born a woman. As Calvine Harvey, Sotheby’s Old Master paintings specialist, has pointed out, only about 1% of major Old Master sales in 2018 were by women artists. There are many reasons for this, but it starts with training. No matter their talent, women were hard-pressed to get into reputable art schools. Those few that were allowed in were denied basic instruction, such as the use of a model. And even those who did get proper training were liable to be lost to time, with their work attributed to a man.
Modern revelations have put past injustices to task. In the 1980s, the Guerilla Girls publicized the fact that women artists were behind less than 5% of the works in the Modern Art department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while they were 85% of the subjects of nudes (more on the Guerilla Girls coming later this week). Earlier this year, female Old Masters got a lift from a Sotheby’s pre-sale exhibition, “The Female Triumphant.”
The fact is, the increased barriers and undue difficulty female painters experienced all but guaranteed that those who achieved success were not just immensely talented but born with a limitless reserve of perseverance.
Read more at my.meural.com/editorial/126.
This collection features works by Lavinia Fontana, Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Leyster, Elisabetta Sirani, Rachel Ruysch, Angelica Kauffmann, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun.