Where are all the women painters??
I’ve heard it said time and time again that history is written by the winners. But as we all know by now, there are two sides to every story. And while books may shed very little light on the women painters from decades past, we refuse to let their work go unnoticed.
Below, some of the best names from the art scene that you should know about.
Born on May 25, 1914, Anita Magsaysay-Ho is best known for her social realist and post-Cubist portrayals of Filipino life and culture. More specifically, her subjects focused heavily on groups of women engaged in labor.
After studying at the University of the Philippines under Fernando Amorsolo, she packed her things and moved to the United States to study in Michigan. Her work eventually got her into a Filipino artist group called the Thirteen Moderns, making Anita Magsasay-Ho the only woman to be inducted.
Proving that talent and strong will can get you anywhere in a society that had women pegged as wives or nuns, Artemisia Gentileschi became one of 16th century Europe’s most sought-after artists. She caught the eye of rich patrons, including the Medicis and Charles I of England, who commissioned her work.
With her signature style on biblical and mythological scenes that depict assertive and authoritative women, there was no stopping her. As she described herself: “You will find the spirit of Caesar in this soul of a woman.”
Some people have argued that because Berthe Morisot started her career in a time when females were more free to pursue a career in the arts, that perhaps her success was not that difficult. However, she still had to start from the ground up, starting off as a copy artist at the Louvre in Paris. She eventually became the first woman to be accepted into the Impressionist circles.
Camille Dela Rosa
As the daughter of painter Ibarra Dela Rosa, it might be argued that Camille Dela Rosa was meant to join the art scene. But the truth is that her father was never able to teach her how to paint and it was only after his death in 1998 that Camille picked up on her own talent. With her father’s previous work as inspiration, she mounted her first solo exhibition at the age of 16.
By the time that the year 2000 rolled around, she had ditched her father’s style and came into her own impressionist techniques. Her work of art ranges from landscapes, portraits, nudes and scenery of churches and gardens. There was even a year when she experimented with the surreal, the morbid and the mechanical.
Though she studied at the Art Students League in New York City, there was a time in her life when Florine Stettheimer experienced a failure. She had an unsuccessful gallery exhibition in 1916, after which she only showed her work in public occasionally. She instead used this time to pursue her passions privately, which gave her the time and freedom to develop her unique style.
Her paintings started to show her signature use of vivid colors and stylized figures. And despite her playful view of privilege and urban society, she maintained her edge.
At a time when few women were radicals and respected artists, Lyubov Popova was a multimedia artist and designer who took an active part in the 1917 Russian Revolution. At the end of her short-lived career, she was credited for bringing modern influences to Russian art, including Cubism and Futurism.
Later on her life, she tried her hand on complete abstraction and incorporated the use of simple geometric forms into her work. If anything, Lyubov Popova proved just how closely art and revolution could work together.
Most known for her black and white masterpiece called Soliloquy. Created on 11 panels of 4×8 feet plywood, it was finished and exhibited in 1990. Literally and figuratively, her work dwarfed all other black and white paintings done by Filipino artists who dared to explore the balance between reflection and absorption.
Maningning Miclat took her own life on September 29, 2000 and a year later, her parents established the Maningning Miclat Art Foundation Inc., which recognizes painters and poets every two years.
While her work may be familiar to many at this point, the history is that Margaret Keane once had to go to court to prove that her paintings were indeed hers.
The court proceedings began in the 1960s when she divorced her husband, who had, until then, been passing off her work as his. “When I had the chance and no one as around, I confronted him with it, and he had all kinds of excuses,” she once said. “[He said] we need the money and it was much easier to sell a painting if people thought they were talking to the artist.”
It took eight years of deceit until Margaret was eventually unable to keep the secret any longer.
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh
The wife to a Scottish architect of high importance, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s talents were often overshadowed. However, it is said that many of the artistic elements of her husband’s work was actually created by her. Despite this, she became one of the most successful British artists of her time, working with different materials and styles.
Alternatively, Pacita Abad always had a way with color—and she always wanted to be a painter. Despite her fear that her pieces seemed a little child-like, one of her instructors once said about her work: “You cannot teach someone color. [You] either have it or you don’t.”
She took great inspiration from her travels to villages of Bangladesh, the Dominical Republic, Sudan, Thailand, Cambodia and—of course—the Philippines. She created subjects out of people and landscapes.
The role of women isn’t always recognized and is still often overlooked by society. The wonderful thing, however, is that there is still so much to learn and there is so much to be said. So say it, in whatever form or platform you choose.
Art Alexandra Lara