Archive for the '16th century female artists' 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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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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Woman as painter: an early archetype

Considering the restrictions put on women in terms of social choices, lack of financial independence, and the religious and moral baggage scattered at their feet, it surprises me that women painted themselves as artists quite as early as they did. This is an archetype one might expect to see as a run-up to suffrage, or post French Revolution perhaps, but
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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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Pioneer and hero: Sofonisba Anguissola

From the mid 1500s we begin to see really notable self-portraits by women trickling through. My favourites are by Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian woman of minor nobility who, from her childhood was determined to paint. The problem for her and her peers was that there was no tradition or culture that gave women permission to be artists. They were working
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