Art, Art History, Art Museums, Museum Exhibitions, Women in Art

Happy International Women’s Day! We salute five great women artists: Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Artemisia Gentileschi, Chakaia Booker, Olga De Amaral and Harriet Whitney Frishmuth

In honor of International Women’s Day, we celebrate five great women artists:  Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Artemisia Gentileschi, Chakaia Booker, Olga De Amaral and Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, covering 500 years of art history.

Self-portrait with Two Pupils, Marie Gabrielle Capet (1761–1818) and Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond (died 1788)

Self-portrait with Two Pupils
Marie Gabrielle Capet (1761–1818) and
Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond (died 1788)

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard  (French, Paris 1749–1803 Paris)
Date: 1785
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:  83 x 59 1/2 in. (210.8 x 151.1 cm)

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was apprenticed to a miniaturist and later, in 1769, studied pastel with Maurice Quentin de La Tour. The rich palette and fine detail in the present picture, one of the earliest of her major works in oil, reflect her earlier training. In 1783, when Labille-Guiard and Vigée Le Brun were admitted to the French Royal Academy, the number of women artists eligible for membership was limited to four, and this canvas, which was exhibited to an admiring audience at the Salon of 1785, has been interpreted as a propaganda piece, arguing for the place of women in the Academy. The artist’s fashionable dress asserts her femininity, the feminist mood is emphasized by the presence of her pupils and the statue of the Vestal Virgin in the background.

Labille-Guiard achieved a certain success at court and, having painted a number of portraits of the aunts of Louis XVI, she came to be known as “Peintre des Mesdames”. However, she sympathized with the Revolution and, unlike Vigée Le Brun, remained in France throughout her life.

Esther before Ahasuerus

Esther before Ahasuerus
Artemisia Gentileschi  (Italian, Rome 1593–1651/53 Naples)

Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions:82 x 107 3/4 in. (208.3 x 273.7 cm)

The most famous woman painter of the seventeenth century, Artemisia worked in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. This painting, among her most ambitious, dates from about 1630. It recounts the story of the Jewish heroine Esther, who appeared before King Ahasuerus to plead for her people, thus breaking court etiquette and risking death. She fainted in his presence, but her request found favor.

The story is conceived not as a historical recreation but as a contemporary event, with emphasis on elaborate costumes. The picture has been abraded, compromising the brilliant description of the luxurious fabrics. Initially Artemisia included the detail of a black boy restraining a dog—still partly visible beneath the marble pavement, to the left of Ahasuerus’s knee.

Raw Attraction

Raw Attraction
Chakaia Booker  (American, born 1953)
Date: 2001
Medium: Rubber tire, Steel and Wood
Dimensions:  42 x 32 x 40 in. (106.7 x 81.3 x 101.6 cm)

Since 1994 Chakaia Booker has made abstract sculptures from discarded rubber tires salvaged from city streets, auto body shops, and dump sites. Cutting, shredding, bending, and transforming them into wild organic shapes, she creates objects that evoke the human body and spirit, without being literal representations. Her work addresses social and cultural issues in a metaphoric way, using suggestive titles to hint at deeper meanings. Raw Attraction, for example, comments on gender, sexuality, and the complications that can arise in male-female relationships. Perched on a pedestal like a bird of prey, this sculpture suggests that both pleasure and peril may await the suitor.

“Alquimia XIII” Wall Hanging
Olga De Amaral  (Colombian, born 1932)

Date:1984
Medium:Linen, rice paper, gesso, indigo red and gold leaf
Dimensions:H. 72, W. 62 inches (182.9 x 157.5 cm.)

Olga de Amaral is one of the leading artists of the post-World War II studio craft movement. Her “woven walls” are deeply personal, suffused with the essence of her native Colombia. She subtly incorporates the landscape, the architecture of old houses with adobe walls and tile roofs, and golden Baroque churches as abstract patterns in the rich surface of her tapestries.

The Vine

The Vine
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (American, 1880-1980)

Medium:  Bronze
Dimensions: 83 1/2 x 49 5/8 x 28 1/2 in. (212.1 x 126 x 72.4 cm)

All works: © 2000–2012 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.

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