Ep. 6 A Few Women Artists to Know

This is the transcript for Episode 6.
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Speaker: Janelle Diethelm (Host)

Hello, I'm your host Janelle, and today I'm talking about a few women artists I particularly enjoy in celebration of Women's History Month. To be perfectly honest. I had originally set up this episode to include contemporary along with historical women artists, but I got so excited about some of the historical women.I hate to cut the contemporary women. So my apologies for that, for those of you who know me, this is very on-brand. I love my historical things. I also want to note that this isn't a sort of intro to all of the women, artists. They are all fascinating women, and I recommend you using the resources section to learn more about that.

Now, just to touch on the webpage associated with this episode, I want to make sure you all know, you can view all of the images and resources I discuss in this episode on my website, www.boozyarthistorian.com. On my website you'll find all kinds of goodies, specifically web pages dedicated to each podcast episode I produce. Just click on the link to the episode you want on the website's homepage, and you'll find the episodes, audio, a transcript of the audio and accompanying resources and images. Right now that I've done all the housekeeping let's get into the good stuff.

The first artist I wanted to discuss is Lavinia Fontana. Fontana was born in 1552 and died in 1614. She was an Italian Mannerist painter who was active in Bologna and Rome, much like many of the artists I covered today, Fontana was trained by her father, Propero Fontana, who was a prominent painter and taught at the school of Bologna. What is particularly noteworthy about Fontana is she is regarded as the first female career artists in Western Europe.

Now, what I mean by that is she was able to support herself and her family solely on the income she made as an artist, which is pretty darn impressive, considering that many women struggled for centuries to achieve this sort of thing, let alone be artists in general. We have to remember that during this time, period, women really didn't have jobs. Their jobs were to be wives supporting their husbands, and produce children. Now that is not completely true for everyone, but it is a general historical trend to keep in mind the Fontana married, Gian Paolo Zappi, who became a sort of stay at home dad to their 11 children, which again is quite a rare thing during this time period and is absolutely wonderful to see her husband supporting her career.

Now we can't say for certain, but some art historian has argued that Fontana was one of the first women to paint news. And this is of course, a great way to start a fight between our historians, but still quite a few academics believe she was the first. Fontana started her career by creating small devotional works and then built her way up to portraits. Mainly portraits of predominant women in Bologna. Women trusted and opened up to Fontana in a way they wouldn't have to male portraitist since Fontana was a woman like them, they felt more at ease with her, or even that she had understood them. You can see a wonderful portrait that she did of a woman with a dog in Image 1. It was through these portraits of Fontana, became a well-known artist throughout Italy, and even managed to catch the attention of Pope Clement VIII, who then extended her an invitation to come to paint some of the predominant figures in the Holy See, and where Fontana spent the rest of her very successful artistic career.

But the next artist I want to discuss is Angelica Kauffman. Kauffman was born in 1741 and died in 1807. She was a Swiss portraitists landscape and historical painter who worked primarily in the Neoclassical style. Those of you who listened to my earlier episodes on bridge written will know this term. Well, Kauffman moved around a lot as a child due to her father being a bishop, but her father was also a skilled painter and taught Kaufman how to paint as a child.

Because of her father's profession, both is an artist and a bishop Kauffman was painting predominant bishops and nobles. By the time she was 12 years old, she also quickly picked up on multiple languages, including English. She continued and finished her artistic training at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, which is in Florence, and she then moved to Rome where she became close friends with the English population.It probably didn't hurt that she spoke some English by this point, but she definitely became fluent during her time in Rome. It was these English connections that allowed her to move to England and become a well-known artist very quickly. She was very well received in England and even had some Royal family members compliment her works.

Unfortunately, she was seduced and married to a con man for a year. Good news is her predominant status and English society allowed her to separate from him, which was quite an accomplishment for a woman during this time period. Kauffman was also good friends with Sir Joshua Reynolds, which again, anyone who listened to the Bridgerton episodes will be well acquainted with this popular artist.

Now we know, Sir Joshua Reynolds helped found the Royal Academy, but did you know Kauffman was one of the two women who also helped found the Royal Academy, pretty exciting stuff! Kauffman had an illustrious career and interestingly considered herself to be a historical painter. This is quite unusual for women, since many female artists were either landscape or portrait artists. You can see an example of her work in Image 2, which actually shows the young Georgiana who goes on to be the future Duchess of Devonshire. For those of you who are still a little puzzled as to who that is Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire was the inspiration and model for the film, the Duchess.

The third artist I want to discuss is Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun. The problem was born in 1755 and died in 1842. She painted mainly in Rococo and Neoclassical styles, much like the other two artists. Her father taught her how to paint, but unfortunately he died when she was 12 years old, her mother went on to remarry, a wealthy jeweler, who was the reason Le Brun was able to gain a foothold into predominant French society in Paris as an artist. Le Brun painted portraits professionally as a teen. And at 19 years old became a member of the Academie de Saint-Luc. She married Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, who was also a painter, but more importantly, an art dealer and also distantly related to the artist, Charles Le Brun, who was one of King Louis XIV's favorite painters. As she rose to stardom in Paris, Queen Marie Antoinette noticed her and brought Le Brun on as her unofficial portrait painter.

Le Brun went onto create over 30 paintings of the queen. You can see one of the portraits and Image 3. She also became a member of the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1783, which was a very big deal. Considering the Academie only accepted 15 women ever. Le Brun fled France during the French Revolution, due to her ties with the monarchy and traveled to Italy, Austria, and Russia, anywhere she went, she was well-received. Although sometimes she and Catherine the Freat didn't always see eye to eye, but Le Brun always won her over in the end.

The next artist, I would like to discuss a Sarah Miriam Peele who was born in 1800 and died in 1885. Peel is considered to be the first American woman to succeed as a professional. Unlike Fontana, who is considered to be the first woman ever to succeed as a professional artist, Peel was born in Philadelphia and was trained by her, both her father and uncle to be an artist. Peel's father was a miniaturists and still life painter and had appeal complete the finishing touches on his works to help her hone her artistic skills. In 1824, she attended the Pennsylvania academy of Fine Arts along with her sister who are considered to be the first woman allowed into the. Just eight years later, she opened her own studio in Baltimore and became quite sought after, by Maryland's political elite. In 1847 she moved to St. Louis where she thrived. And this is where art historians believe she gained enough popularity to earn the title of the first American woman to succeed as a professional artists. Many of her works are in private collections today, but you can find some of her works at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC. You can see an example of work and Image 4.

Right. We're officially at the halfway point with our next artist Rosa Bonheur. Bonheur was born in 1822 and died in 1899. Some of you may actually recognize this name since there was a Google doodle for her on March 16th to celebrate her 200th birthday. I put the doodle in for you in Image 5. Bonheur learned to paint through her father who was a landscape and portrait artist. He strongly encouraged her to have a career as an artist. And I must admit, it's rather touching to see that her father really supported her. Bonheur spent a good portion of childhood in Paris and was a bit of a wild child, but her parents found ways to engage her in her artistic talents. For example, her mom would have Bonheur draw out the animals that they were practicing spelling, and her dad would bring in live animals to a studio for her to practice her artistic skills.

As you can see animals are a theme here. So it's no wonder that quite a few of her works involve them. One of these animal paintings is particularly important to her career as an artist, The Horse Fair, which you can see in Image 6, this work gained international attention and depicts a horse market held in Paris. Fun fact, when Bonheur traveled to Scotland around the time this painting was completed and ran into Queen Victoria, who was also traveling at the time and they were introduced. It's also good to know Queen Victoria was a fan of Bonheur's work, and so that definitely helped her gain a larger international and prestigious recognition .

In 1865 Bonheur was the first woman to be given the Legion of honor by Empress Eugénie . This of course is an incredible moment for Bonheur and just another major stepping stone in her artistic group. I also want to mention that Bonheur was openly gay, which is quite remarkable considering that was very much not something people announced to the world during this time period. It's actually really quite interesting. Since Bonheur used, her artistic career as an excuse to even get special police permission to wear pants. We have to remember that gayness was severely frowned upon and would have had severe consequences for anyone who came out of. And we have to also remember that women were only allowed to wear dresses.It was unthinkable for a woman to dress as a man and not be arrested for it. But Bonheur was very clever and said something along the lines of, well I'm around livestock all day for my work. So it seemed us for me to wear a dress. So I really should wear men's clothing so I can move freely and safely around the animals.And the police were like, fair point.

Bonheur was an incredibly fascinating woman and I highly recommend you reading more about her. There are all kinds of really great books and things like that out. Um, so you can definitely check out the resources section to learn more.

The next artist I would like to discuss is Lilla Cabot Perry who was born in 1848 and died in 1933. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Perry traveled and lived all over the. Unlike our other discussed artists, Perry's father was not an artist, but rather a well-known surgeon. Also her mother's family were well-known in the medical world. Both her parents were abolitionists and cared for wounded soldiers along with protecting runaway slaves during the Civil War, while Perry didn't go to a university for her formal training, she was tutored by wonderful artists, some of which included Alfred Quinton Collins, Robert Vonnoh, and Dennis Bunker.

Her parents also took her to Europe when she was younger, where she could study painting. It's also important to note that Perry married Thomas Sergeant Perry, who was a Harvard alumnus scholar and linguist, and it's his various jobs that help her live all over the world and study different painting techniques in 1887, she enrolled in the Académie Colarossi in Paris. While in Paris, she became friends with the famous art critic, Bernard Berenson, and she was also accepted by the Salon for two portraits of family members. She painted on top of all that. She became friends with Mary Cassat, Camille Pissaro, and Claude Monet. She actually lived down the street from Claude Monet in Giverny and became his unofficial mentee. For those of you who are unaware, Monet never took on official mentees.

In 1891 she and her family moved back to Boston with her husband and children, and was unfortunately not well received at jokes on them though, because she did win them over in the end. And three years later, she was part of an impressionist exhibition at St. Botolph Club in Boston with other predominant artists and it marks sort of the official interests Americans had gained in the Impressionist movement. Soon after Perry's husband was offered a teaching job in Japan where the family moved and seemed to have done very well for themselves. During their time there Perry became an honorary member of the Nippon Bijutsu-In Art Association. During her time in Japan, Perry created over 80 paintings.

In 1901 Perry returns to Boston and is quite the predominant artist this time. She bounced between Boston and Paris over the next couple of years and exhibited at the Salon des Indépendents and also became a member of the Build of Boston Artists. Perry received a bronze medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which was based in San Francisco, California in 1915 and seven years later had a solo exhibition in New York, specifically for her landscapes from Japan and Giverny. You can see one of her works and the lovely Impressionst style she utilizes in Image 7.

All right. The second to last artists, I would like to discuss is Hilma af Klint. Some of you may know that name from the wildly popular Guggenheim exhibition in 2019. Hilma af Klint was born in 1862 and died in 1944. She was a Swedish artist who was abstract painter. Some believe she was the first to produce abstract art, other abstract artists you may know include Kandisnsky and Mondrian. Klint grew up surrounded by nature in her appreciation for it is apparent in her early works. She also showed early on a passion for visual arts and she was enrolled in the  Tekniska skolan school in Stockholm. At the age of 20, she was accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts based in Stockholm and focused on art that was considered more feminine, which included portrait and landscape painting.

When she graduated, it was with honors and a scholarship that allowed her to open her own studio in the heart of Stockholm. For the most part, her works focused on botany and landscape painting, which allowed her steady income from her art.  I’ve put in one of her botany works in Image 8.  This is a personal photograph from the Guggenheim exhibition in 2019. Tragically, Hilma af Klint’s younger sister, Hermina, died in 1880 and this really is what motivated Klint to become interested in the spiritual world. From this year on we see a rise in abstract works being made by Klint. It's also important to note that spiritism is on the rise, not just in Europe, but also in America.

And this is where we start seeing "ghosts", in photographs and the popularization  of seances and Ouija boards. Fun fact, the Ouija board was created and patented in the late 1800s by Charles Kennard and a few other investors. I absolutely do not have time to go into the fascinating history of the Ouija board, but I put a link in the resources section for you all to read if you would like to know more. I also want to say that Klint, isn't the only one dabbling with spiritism and abstract art. We also see this in works by Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Nabis. But she is one of the few artists who hid her abstract works away from the public. Since she believed that the world wasn't ready to see it, and specifically requested that a remain unseen by the public until 20 years after her death.

But I digress as Klint's career progressed, she met a group of like-minded women who went on to call themselves "The Five". Basically it was a group of women who were interested in the paranormal and held frequent séances. It was during the time that she spent with these women that led Klint to start dabbling in automatic drawings. For those of you who aren't aware of what an automatic drawing is, this is basically the process where the artist puts pen to paper or any other sort of art medium in front of them clears their mind, and then lets any spirits present, take over their hand and create these drawings and that then they have these sort of meanings for the artists to interpret. It's a really fascinating concept and Klint created quite a few of these stunning works with this method. I think there's something wonderfully motivational about Klint and her works. Some of her most celebrated abstract works weren't actually created until she was well into her forties. Proving that you're never too old to come into your own.

And she's also a great example of what happens when you let imposter syndrome get the better of you. If only we could have seen her abstract works earlier and she hadn't hidden them away from the public, they are magnificent pieces. But of course, I've just scratched the surface of Hilma af Klint, and I highly recommend you reading more about her. You can check out the resources section.

The last artist I would like to discuss is Eulabee Dix. Dix was born in 1878 and died in 1961. She was an American artist who is well-known for her portrait miniatures. Dix was born in Greenfield, Illinois, and her parents encouraged her passion for art at an early age. In a sort of good news, bad news situation, Dix's parents that didn't have enough income to support her, so they sent her to live with wealthy relatives in St. Louis. In St. Louis she spent a year at the St. Louis school of Fine Arts where she received two medals for her paintings and still life drawing. Interestingly, she went on to teach our classes when she returned to her parents at the young age of 17 years old, it was during her time as a teacher that she gained an interest in portrait miniatures.

At 21 years old, she moved to New York city where she studied at the Art Students League and became quite good at creating portrait miniature. Dix stayed in New York city where she found herself in predominant artists and social circles and worked really hard to achieve success. She was very much a "fake it till you make it" kind of woman and would hide how little income she had by putting what little money she did have in two fashionable wardrobes and holding these sort of salons at her home.

It was through these salons that she met Minnie Stevens Paget who helped Dix gain entry into London's elite social. And Dix started splitting her time between London and New York. Her career really took off in London and she had her first exhibition at the Fine Arts Society in London's very posh New Bond Street in 1906.In that same year, she also had shows at the Royal Academy of Art, those who listened to my Bridgerton episode know that name well, and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Fun fact, Dix painted the last known portrait of Mark Twain in 1908!

She also won a medal for her works at the Paris Salon in 1927. Unfortunately with the Great Depression, many of her wealthy clients were destitute, and she tried her best to keep up appearances that the Depression hadn't affected her, but it did. And things did not get much better when World War II took place Dix took on a job painting radium onto airplane parts, which of course took a toll on her health. This unfortunately affected her eyesight along with old age, and she really didn't create miniatures like she did in her early career. Up until a few months before she passed ,  Dix continued to travel between Europe and America taking on a few commissions here and there.

You can find a sizeable amount of her works at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, but predominant museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art have some of her works in their collections as well. Due to copyright issues, I can't post her work on the website, but I've put a link to one of her works at the Met in the resources section for you all to view.

And with that, we have reached the end of the episode. I hope you all found this episode informative and inspiring.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are countless women artists that discussed and I've just touched on a few of my personal favorite. Please do check out the resources section to learn more. I have all kinds of goodies in there. Anonymous Was a Woman website is incredible and I cannot recommend it enough to you all. Uh, also as well as Where are the Women Artists, just great resources for learning more about women artists out there.

As always should you have any questions, comments, or thoughts? You are welcome to DM me on Instagram @boozyarthistorian. You'll also find fun drink recipes on my TikTok account @boozyarthistorian, and you can find fun art history facts on my more sober Instagram account @thecuriousarthistorian.

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