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Celebrating Women In Art: Recognising Female Artists on International Women's Day

Todays surface pattern design industry, from what I see, predominantly features women making and selling art. Making money, creating trends, creating jobs, building careers, and making waves. But when my 8-year old daughter was introduced to art history at school recently, only male artists were discussed.

So this post is to celebrate my favourite females in art history - ones I have loved for a long time, and ones I have just discovered from doing research for this post, and yes - I will be taking it to the school!

So let's start with some history and stats. This is taken from the Tate website:

According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 51 per cent of visual artists today are women. But when it comes to exhibitions and gallery representation, the numbers tell a less optimistic story. In London, for example, 78 per cent of the galleries represent more men than women, while only 5 per cent represent an equal number of male and female artists.
And beyond the statistics, women artists and curators face unique challenges, from the subjects they bring to light to the work they choose to present. As Tate Modern director Frances Morris has said, women have been discriminated against for centuries, and major institutions have typically failed to support the careers of women artists working on the margins. The number of women in the Tate collection is growing, and half the rooms in the Natale Bell Building are currently devoted to a sole female artist, but work remains to be done.

Not only are women under represented in art galleries and in school education, there is an underlying narrative of not making money from art too.

A young girl came up to me and said that she wanted to be an artist like me but then added that her mum said she wouldn't make any money from it so told her not to pursue it. I think this was probably very much the case in the past, and particularly hard if women were not getting support, acknowledgement or credit, but with more and more women creating and selling art as a side hustle or full time occupation in the modern day it's a narrative that needs to be retold.

That is another post for another day. But for now - here are 8 female artists that I want to recognise and put in the spotlight.

Georgia O'Keefe

American modernist artist


"I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at – not copy it."

Themes: Modern art, regional scenes, abstract shapes, radical florals, distinctive views

Materials: paper, pencil, charcoal, pastels, watercolours 

Why is her art important?: dramatic, forward thinking

Georgia O’Keefe, Red Canna, 1924

Georgia O’Keffe, From the Lake, 1924

Georgia O Keffe, City Lights, 1926

Beatrix Potter

English Illustrator


Themes: Art Nouveau, illustration, flora, fauna

Materials: pencil, watercolour, paint

Why is her art important?: it's stood the test of time

Beatrix Potter, The Tailor Mouse, 1902

Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit, year unknown

Beatrix Potter, The Tailor leaving his workshop, 1902

Berthe Morisot

French Impressionist 

1841- 1895

Themes: Impressionism, painting, domestic scenes, landscapes, gardens, 

Materials: Oil, canvas, pencil, watercolour

Why is her art important?: Charming, elegant, light, she was described as one of 'the three great ladies' of Impressionism in her time

Berthe Morisot, The quay at Bougival, 1883

Berthe Morisot, After Luncheon, 1881

Berthe Morisot, Boating on the lake, 1892

Gwen John

Welsh Painter


"I think a picture ought to be done in 1 sitting or at most 2."

Themes: Post Impressionism, self portrait, female portraits

Materials: Paints

Why is her art important?: After long been overshadowed by the larger-than-life personality of her brother, fellow painter Augustus John it's time for her to shine

Gwen John, Self-portrait, 1902

Gwen John, Woman sewing at a window, year unknown

Gwen John, Self-portrait with letter, 1907

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

French Rococo


Themes: rococo colour palettes, neoclassical style, portrait, painting, landscapes

Materials: oil, canvas, wood

Why is her art important?: She created more than 800 pieces, with more than 30 portraits of Marie Antoinette and her family after being granted patronage

Le Brun, Marie Antoinette with a rose, 1783 Le Brun, Princess Louise of Prussia Princess Antoni Henryk Radziwill, year unknown

Le Brun, Self-portrait in a straw hat, c.1787

Hilma af Klint

Swedish Artist


Theme: abstract, modernism, symbolism, 

Materials: paints, pencils

Find out more:

Why is her art important?: her work was among the first abstract art

Klint, series VII, No. 7d, 1920

Klint, Altarpiece No.1, Group X, 1915

Klint, de tio storsta, no 2, barnaaldern, 1907

Frida Kahlo

Mexican Artist


Theme: primitivism, surrealism, self portrait 

Materials: painting, oil, canvas, masonite

Why is her art important?: used her art to help better understand emotional and physical suffering

Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait in a velvet dress, 1926

Frida Kahlo, The two Fridas, 1939

Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait with monkey and parrot, 1942

Maria Sibylla Merian

German Illustrator


Theme: baroque, illustration 

Materials: painting, engraving, drawing, scientific, naturalism, florals, animals

Why is her art important?: Art and science combine to create beautiful imagery that inspire artists, writers and scientists alike

Merian, Untitled, year unknown

Merian, Untitled, year unknown

Merian, Untitled, year unknown

How many of these female artists did you know, how many pieces of their art have you seen? Let me know what you thought of this collection of works, how they make you feel, does it make you feel any different that they are all created by women?

Happy International Women's Day to all women artists everywhere, let your voice be heard and your art be seen.

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