As I mentioned in my post on Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, one of the tragedies of the level of misogyny in the history of art — in addition to the personal tragedies of women whose passion for creating art was denied by societal “norms” — is the unknowable number of possibly brilliant women artists whose contributions we have denied ourselves as a culture.
Though opportunities for women artists are better today than in the past, women still must face disparaging attitudes and assumptions based on their gender about the value of their work. In the past, it was even more pronounced, and artistic endeavors like painting and sculpture were largely considered “inappropriate” pursuits for women.
There were exceptions, of course — women who by luck or right of birth or grit, determination and persistence managed to establish themselves as artists of note in spite of the odds against them.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC is a museum and organization dedicated to highlighting, promoting and increasing awareness of the contributions of women artists.
I have to say that when in Washington I have difficulty getting past the mind-boggling collections of the National Gallery of Art to visit other art museums in the city. (It’s only in the past few years that I’ve even gotten to the amazing Smithsonian American Art Museum, and I have yet to visit the National Portrait Gallery.) So while the the National Museum of Women in the Arts is certainly on my list, I just haven’t made it there yet. I’m looking forward to spending more time in D.C. and visiting the museum this summer.
In addition to viewing items from the collection that way, you can browse or search their artist profiles, which give biographical backgrounds and also feature images of the artists’ works.
Just from this small sampling in one museum, imagine if we had been more open minded as a society and had access to a hundred times this many more women artists from history, how much richer we would be for their contributions.
(Images above: Lavinia Fontana, Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau, Lois Mailou Jones, Arreau, Louise Moillon, Eulabee Dix, Judith Leyster, Louise Abbéma, Marguerite Gérard, Rosa Bonheur, Rachel Ruysch, Elisabetta Sirani, Celine M. Tabary, Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Anna Ancher)