Archive for the 'As artist' Category

Children as passports

As you leaf through women’s self-portraits of the past you can’t help seeing how many children are by our sides. They are everywhere – as babies, as toddlers, as siblings. It’s unsettling. Unsettling, because those children were our passports. They gave us permission to paint – not the children themselves (many of them probably wished their mothers weren’t so distracted by paint) but
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I paint, therefore I am

In the next series of posts I want to move on to another theme in the history of women’s self-portraiture, that of motherhood. But in the interest of tying up loose ends I should make some kind of conclusion to this theme. In exploring art history in general, the female artist is largely absent from the famous collections, the main catalogues and
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Mirror, mirror once again

The twentieth century proved to be a good time for women. Many things in their collective lives improved, at least in the developed world. Being a female artist became a possibility in the professional sense despite significant sexist attitudes remaining. Once we got to this point in time, it was as if we were suddenly free to look in the mirror again, and more
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Nora Heysen and her blue-eyed gaze

                      In 1938 Nora Heysen became the first woman to win the Archibald Prize, Australia’s best known portrait prize and an annual event which has attracted much controversy since its inception in 1921. In 1943 Heysen became the first Australian female war artist and was posted to Borneo and New Guinea
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Gabriele Münter plays second fiddle

You may know of Gabriele Münter as the partner of Kandinsky during the years of the Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider group). By all accounts her life was made miserable by her great and no-doubt difficult teacher and long-time lover Wassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky was hard task master it seems, telling her ‘as a pupil you are hopeless – nothing can
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Eye to eye with Anna Bilinska

At about the same time as Therese Schwartze was peering back at Reynolds, Anna Bilinska was facing us – eye to eye. Anna Bilinska’s multi-layered painting is one of my favourites. When I’m feeling buoyant, I fancy myself chatting easily with this attractive woman – who appears to have sat down momentarily on the sitter’s chair, almost inadvertently catching her
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Peering back at Reynolds

There is a fabulous self-portrait by the Dutch artist Therese Schwartze (1852-1918) where she assumes the pose made famous by Joshua Reynolds some 140 years earlier. Reynolds painted his self-portrait early in his career and shows himself as a young artist, hand to brow shading his eyes and carefully surveying his subject – his own reflection in a mirror. It’s
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Understanding Artemesia’s Allegory

In 1611 Cesare Ripa published the highly influential text Iconologia, a kind of recipe book detailing the symbols artists could use in painting various themes. It was a bit of a ready-reckoner of emblems allowing artists to narrate complex stories and ideas using symbols which were easily recognised and understood by the viewer. The visual image played a different role
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Artemisia Gentileschi: the Nina Simone of the Renaissance

Much has been made in recent years of the artist Artemisia Gentileschi. Rather than talk about the story that accompanies her life – the rape by her art teacher Agostino Tassi which, having all the features of a good soap opera has the power to confine her within that story – I am going to attempt to throw light on
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More pioneers: the woman and the easel

Sofonisba Anguissola was not alone in the early 1500s in creating the archetypes we would emulate. Catarina van Hemessen, a Flemish artist is particularly important because she is said to be the first artist of either sex who painted herself at an easel. In 1548 she paints herself seated in front of her easel, brushes and palette in hand. Everything
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