In honor of International Women’s Day, we would like to share with you five great women artists that helped women become more recognizable as artists. Being a female artist was not an easy feat in the Renaissance period. These women endured many hardships and oppositions that make their great accomplishments even more impressive and important for us to celebrate. Find out about 5 great women artists who helped changed history and encouraged more women to become artists.
SOFONISBA ANGUISSOLA (1532-1625)
Our first female artist was born in Cremona, Italy to a poor family. Unlike most female Renaissance artists in her time, Anguissola was not taught how to paint by her father. Instead, she received an education in the fine arts and even completed an apprenticeship with local painters. Her acceptance as a world-class artist set a model for other women to be accepted as artist’s throughout the world. Even the world renowned Renaissance artist Michelangelo praised her talent.
She is most well known for her self-portraits of her and her family. Anduissola’s success as an artist paved the way for a large number of females to pursue serious careers as painters, something that we must celebrate today on International Women’s day.
LAVINIA FONTANA (1552-1614)
Our second Renaissance artist was born in Bologna, Italy. She is regarded as the first woman painter, outside of a convent, to work within the same domain are her male counterparts, which was a huge accomplishment. Although her father was a well known painter at the time, Fontana surpassed him and became the main breadwinner of her family of thirteen.
She is well known for being the first female painter to depict female nudes, which was previously seen as taboo. Although being a female proved difficult in a society accustomed to male artists, she did not let that stop her from becoming an eminent female painter.
FEDE GALIZIA (1578-1630)
Our third female Renaissance artist, born in Milan, Italy, was known as a “Pioneer of the still-life genre”. She was trained by her father, Nunzio Galizia, who was also a well known artist, and by the age of twelve she was seen as an accomplished painter.
All of her paintings are known for their vast detail and use of vibrant colors. Although she was often commissioned to paint portraits of religious scenes, such as this portrait of Judith and Holofernes, her favorite thing to paint were still-life paintings. In this painting depicting Judith holding the head of Holofernes, it is speculated that she paints herself as Judith. Her advanced skills are even thought to have influenced still-life painters in the Baroque period, both male and female.
ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI (1593-1653)
Moving into the Baroque period, this artist was taught by her father and was influenced by the renowned late painter Caravaggio. She is well known for painting portraits of mythological and biblical scenes using a unique female perspective. Since she was raped at a young age, her expression of these scenes focuses on the woman as strong and in some cases focuses on their suffering. Today she is considered one of the most progressive and expressive painters of the Baroque period. Her extreme success as a painter inspired other female artists in this time period to pursue professional careers in painting.
Later in her career, Artemisia became the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disengno in Florence. This was a turning point in her career as it gave her more freedom both personally and professionally. After becoming a member, Artemisia began to receive the same rights that her male counterparts had. She could now sign her own contracts and buy her own supplies without the help of her father or brothers. She was also allowed to now travel without a male chaperone, which helped her complete commissions in different countries.
ELISABETTA SIRANI (1638-1665)
Our last female Baroque artist we will honor for International Women’s Day, was born in Bologna, Italy and was not only a painter but a printmaker as well. She is known as the first female in history to specialize in history paintings. Other female painters in the time specialized in still-lifes, but this changed when Sirani accumulated a large following.
Another accomplishment was her establishment of an academy for other women artists. This allowed for other female artists to receive a proper education in the arts. Although she mysteriously died at the age of twenty-seven, Sirani produced over 200 paintings which seems impossible. Some speculate that her death was due to overworking.
These female artists we are honoring for International Women’s Day, faced adversity with a steady hand and created the masterpieces that shaped art into what it is today.