Find inspiration in the stories of these 5 incredible women artists. While there are many amazing women artists from the past, the following represent artistic vision, passion and success.
Georgia O’Keeffe An Art Legend Who Lives On Today
Georgia O’Keeffe remains one of America’s most popular painters of natural artworks today; around the world, people still easily recognize her work, often identifying her paintings immediately upon seeing a huge display of colorful flowers or bones in a dream-like desert.
Perhaps one of the reasons Georgia developed an interest in painting was her mother’s cultural interests. In addition to their school studies, Georgia’s mother saw to it that all her daughters studied art, although Georgia said she really did not know where the idea to become an artist came from. Wherever it originated, she was highly successful! Six calla lily paintings created by Georgia sold for $25,000 in 1928; certainly that amount of money was hardly heard of during the period.
The late American artist also holds the record for the most expensive painting by a female artist ever sold at auction. Her oversized portrait of a flower “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” (1932) fetched $44.4 million at Sotheby’s American Art sale in November 2014. Explore more here
The Mistress of the Darkroom – Lillian Bassman
In an era where women were not recognized in the arts and design, Lillian Bassman became a success. She was working as a Graphic Designer in the 1940’s when she was ‘discovered’ for her visual talent by Photographer Richard Avedon and he encouraged towards a career in high fashion photography. For years she worked in the fashion industry and she eventually grew to a place of deep discouragement with her work and those she worked with. She closed her studio, abandoned photography – destroyed her commercial negatives and dumped the editorial ones in binliners in a nook of her home. Instead, for private satisfaction, she photographed semi-abstracts. For years her famous dramatic images stayed dormant. And then in the early 1990’s a friend of hers discovered her long lost negatives. Read more
Minnie Evans, Visionary Artist – “My whole life has been dreams…”
As a young girl Minnie was forced to drop out of school in sixth grade out of economic necessity; and she began working at Wrightsville Sound as a sounder selling clams and oysters in the neighborhood where her family lived.
Minnie had a compelling spiritual experience which led to her learning how to draw in 1935. It was Good Friday when she claims to have heard God’s command telling her to draw. Following this vision, she was inspired to paint for the next five decades. Many of her compositions were symmetrical, and included angels, rainbows, birds, flowers, and butterflies. Minnie once said that, “My whole life has been dreams. Sometimes day visions. They would take advantage of me. No one taught me to paint. It came to me.”
Evans’ art was shaped by what historians call a collective whole of her experiences, which included not only her visionary imagination, but African roots, strong religious convictions, and visual knowledge of historical art and culture including Persian and Oriental. See her vibrant work here
The Spider Lady – Louise Bourgeois
Bourgeois was born on December 25th, 1911 and was the middle child of three born to parents Josephine Fauriaux and Louis Bourgeois. Her parents owned a gallery that dealt primarily in antique tapestries.
Her father was a tyrannical philanderer and was indulging in an extended affair with her English teacher and nanny. This marked the beginning of her experience and pain with double standards related to gender and sexuality and this theme was expressed in much of her work. She recalls her father saying “I love you” repeatedly to her mother despite infidelity. She remarked, “He was the wolf, and she was the rational hare, forgiving and accepting him as he was.”
She once said: “The subject of pain is the business I am in – to give meaning and shape to frustration and suffering.” She added: “The existence of pain cannot be denied. I propose no remedies or excuses.” Yet it was her gift for universalizing her interior life as a complex spectrum of sensations that made her art so affecting.
She was nicknamed the Spiderwoman and in 2012 her sculpture titled Maman, sold for $10.7 million, a new record price for the artist at auction, and the highest price paid for a work by a woman artist. Maman resembles a spider, is among the worlds largest, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide, with a sac containing 26 marble eggs.
Read more here
Grace Hartigan: I was a Household Name
In the 1950s, Grace Hartigan was the most celebrated woman painter in America, according to Life magazine. She modestly concurred: “I was a household name.” Her career traced a brilliant arc from international fame to a locally rooted esteem, and by the time of her death, aged 86, she was effectively a household name only in Baltimore, where she was revered as a teacher.
Throughout the 1950s, Hartigan and other women artists at the time faced resistance by the art establishment. Modernism, particularly Abstract Expressionism with its emphasis on “action painting,” was very much a male preserve as epitomized by the persona of the hard-living Jackson Pollack. Grace however endured and gained her reputation as part of the New York School of artists and painters that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and ’50s. Find out more
While there are many inspirational women artists from the past and alive and well now, my hope is that you are inspired and encouraged!