Important Female Painters of the 19th & 20th Century

Posted by Jhan Dudley on

As is the case in most other professions, so too, female artists are generally not awarded the same level of recognition as their male counterparts. The good news is, society appears to be slowly changing it's pervasive androcentric biases. Evidence of this can be found not just in the corporate world, but in sports, music, and other highly skilled professions, not least of which, the arts. Here are a few notable 19th and 20th century female painters.

1. Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755 – 1842)

French portrait artist, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, created an impressive body of work totaling nearly 1,000 portraits and landscape paintings. She was trained by her father, and was painting portraits professionally by the time she was a teenager. She was named as Marie Antoinette’s official portrait painter, and was later granted entry to several art academies.

Her paintings bridge the gap between the ornate 'Rococo style' and more restrained 'Neoclassical'. She was a favorite painter of the aristocracy across Europe, and enjoyed continued success in her career, even while in exile after the French Revolution.

2. Rosa Bonheur (1822 – 1899)

Common among many female artists, Rosa Bonheur‘s father was a painter. Known for her large-format paintings that featured animals, her paintings were exhibited regularly at the acclaimed Paris salon. She was also popular abroad both in the United States and Great Britain.

3. Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895)

Berthe Morisot is considered to be one of the great female Impressionist painters. Born into an aristocratic French family, she was the great-niece of celebrated Rococo painter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and was also married to Edouard Manet's brother. As well as oils, she also worked in pastels, watercolor, and charcoal. Her subject matter included landscapes, still life, and domestic scenes.

4. Mary Cassatt (1844 – 1926)

American painter, Mary Cassatt spent her adult life in France, where she became an integral part of the Impressionist group. She learned her trade by copying the Old Master paintings in the Louvre. Her career was already taking off when she joined the Impressionists, and forged a life-long friendship with Degas.

She was outspoken in her dismay at the formal art system. She felt it required female artists to flirt or befriend male patrons in order to advance their artistic careers. Throughout her life, Cassatt continued to support equality for women, even participating in an exhibition in support of women’s suffrage.

5. Georgia O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986)

American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe may be the exception in this list, as she is one of the most celebrated female artists in history. Her early drawings and paintings led to bold experiments in abstraction, and she later earned the title, 'Mother of American modernism'. But she is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, and New Mexico landscapes. During her lifetime, her career was intertwined with her husband, famed photographer, Alfred Stieglitz.

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