Nov 27, 2012

Baby We Have Come a Long Way!

The struggle to become an artist as a Woman
Sharon Teal Coray

As I was sitting at my easel today I started thinking about the women artists of yesterday and the problems they must have faced.

Here I am sitting in my old comfortable  painting shirt and pants but can you imagine standing at an easel with a full corset and long dress with layers of petticoats?

That is just one of the problems they must have had to overcome.

Generally women were often associated with textile arts, Many art forms dominated by women have been historically dismissed from the art historical principal as craft, contrary to fine art.

For eons women artists faced challenges due to gender biases in the conventional, fine art world. They have often had to confront many struggles in training, traveling and trading or selling their work, and gaining acceptance in the man’s world of art.
Throughout the nineteenth century, women artists had to overcome great odds to pursue their livelihoods. Besides the prejudice that women weren't meant to create serious art some male artists also belittled their female colleagues. Edgar Degas, a known male supremacist, saw women as "animals" with an "absence of all feeling in the presence of art."
Thomas Hart Benton believed that "an art school is a place for young girls to pass the time between high school and marriage”

I can't even imagine that!

I know that when I heard the term “Old Master” I thought of men! I now know that is because historians put that picture into my mind.

England's Royal Academy did not allow women into its schools until 1862 The École des Beaux-Arts in France completely barred women.
Then they were only allowed to paint flowers and still-life's!

Overcoming great odds to peruse their desires to be artists, when they finally were accepted into the academy, they found their educations extremely insufficient in comparison to the men's classes. One of the great debates of the times was over the use of the nude model in life classes.

By 1868 the Pennsylvania Academy allowed women to attend and even set up a Ladies Life Class with a nude female model. In 1877 they had a nude male model but he was actually still clothed about the loins.The Pennsylvania Academy, however, was a rather liberal exception.

 In Europe, outstanding art schools did not provide women's classes with a nude model until close to the turn of the century.
In addition to having to fight to get accepted women were not allowed to take examinations or compete for prizes.
In 1885, the Royal Academy required to see a male student's drawings of a whole figure for juries, while the female student was only required to submit a drawing of the models head.

But women being strong just kept pushing on through this difficult professional field.
Women had to overcome many added burdens of being female. The woman artist met many obstacles and was granted little opportunity and looked down upon. I imagine that is why so many in the past have only signed their paintings with initials instead of names.

Some outstanding women artists!

Two prominent women artists of the time, Emily Osborn, and Elizabeth Thompson (later to be Lady Elizabeth Butler), showed their works quite regularly. The former painted from the daily experiences of women and offered crucial insights into the plight of the female artist.

In her work Nameless and Friendless, she shows a young woman artist attempting to sell her work to a dealer. She looks poor, evidenced by her old, worn black clothing. Since she is of a lower class, she cannot sit in the chair by the dealer's desk, which would be reserved for artists of a higher status. I love the look on the dealers can tell he is a bit condescending!

Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler (3 November 1846–2 October 1933) was a British painter, the first woman painter to achieve fame for history paintings, right at the end of that tradition. She was married to Lieutenant General Sir William Butler.

Scotland Forever!

Fede Galizia, a 17th-century painter, was celebrated for rendering fruit so vividly that her patrons thought they could feel the skins, as in the fuzz of the peaches in her "Still Life with Peaches in a Porcelain Bowl." She became known for her skill at age 12.

Louise Moillon also was a 17th-century still life painter who began selling her art at age 10. Her skill at capturing the texture of water droplets and the texture of woven baskets earned her acceptance into the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. This, even though the Academy decreed still life painting unimportant.

Still-Life With Cherries, Strawberries and Gooseberries (ca. 1630)
Sarah Miriam Peale, a 19th-century portrait painter, executed likenesses of the then Secretary of State Daniel Webster, numerous congressmen and foreign dignitaries.
Angelica Kauffman self Portrait
Angelica Kauffmann, an 18th- to 19th-century painter of ancient history, received her first commission before she was a teenager. She founded the British Royal Academy with fellow painter Mary Moser.

By Mary Moser


In a portrait of the first class studying a nude—"The Academicians of the Royal Academy" by Johann Zoffany—everyone is shown at work except Kauffmann and Moser. Zoffany put their faces in small portraits on the studio wall.

Then we have a great sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. She was a 20th century artist.
She won first place in a Paris competition for her life-size equestrian statue of Joan of Arc in 1910, the judges took the prize back when they found out she was female!

Yes we women have been discriminated against and had to fight to be considered as fine artists, and yet we keep going and producing some of the most beautiful artwork in the world. We are a tenacious bunch aren't we?

Here are some paintings I found that show only men in the classes!

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