Dating back to the Renaissance, male artists have often taken the spotlight over their female contemporaries.
According to theartwolf.com, the fifty most influential artists in history are all men, except for number 49!
Yet, many lesser-known women artists deserve more attention than they’ve received.
As an under-appreciated artist of the 17th century, female artist Lavinia Fontana’s classical style rivals that of the great Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and Donatello.
Unfortunately, Fontana’s gender led to insurmountably biased reactions within the fine art world that both stunted her acclaim and limited her painted subject matter.
Like Fontana, American painter and printmaker Mary Cassatt, one of the first more well-known female artists, painted what she, as a woman of the 19th century, knew best — domestic affairs.
Women with their children recurred throughout much of Cassatt’s artwork, depicting impressionistic maternal portraits.
But it wasn’t until the late 1960′s and 1970′s that women artists and art historians took full charge of their art influence and founded a feminist art movement, examining the role of women in history and culture.
Through performance art and photography, esteemed female American artists like Carolee Schneemann, Hannah Wilke, Judy Chicago, and Cindy Sherman exposed the real experiences of women and the female body.
Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is a monumental installation, comprised of a triangular table, each side 48 feet long, on which 39 women in history are represented by place settings. Inscribed in the Heritage Floor where the table rests are the names of 999 other historic women.
Throughout Cindy Sherman’s prolific body of work, she addresses the stereotypes of women in society with self-portrait photographs, representing themes like naivete, self-obsession, and sexuality.
Yet, the feminist art movement did not reign the art world for long.
With the 1960′s pop art movement and post-modernism beginning in 1970, male artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Gerhard Richter, and Anselm Keifer became kings of the court.
And so female artists continued to fall into the shadow of their male peers.
Hopefully the young and talented African American artist Kara Walker, British painter Jenny Saville, and American photographer Zoe Strauss will pave the way for women of the art world to easily shine.
- Ava Cotlowitz