Sunday, 5 October 2008

Art history express

Enjoy 500 years of female portraits in Western art - in just 3 minutes - with this wonderful video. It was created by EggMan (Philip Scott Johnson) and got a lot of online attention when it first appeared, but is always worth another look:

If you're struggling to identify some of the images, check them out on this site which matches a thumbnail of each to the title, artist and date.

However, you might notice that only two of the artists were women (Mary Cassatt, an impressionist painter from a wealthy American family, and Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun, a French court painter patronised by Marie Antoinette). Some explanation of that statistic can be found in the story of Victorine Meurent, discussed by novelist V R Main in the Guardian on Friday. She is best known as Manet's favourite model, and it has often been assumed that she was also his mistress if not a prostitute - although she probably never slept with him at all. In reality, Meurent was herself an artist and financially independent - no mean achievement for a working-class woman in the mid-nineteenth century, when women were denied formal artistic training. Indeed, she exhibited at the 1876 Paris Salon (Manet's submission was rejected) and again in 1879, 1885 and 1904. In 1903 she was admitted to the Société des Artistes Français. All her work was believed lost, but one painting has recently been acquired by the museum in Colombes where she lived for the last 20 years of her life with Marie Dufour, a piano teacher.

Despite such odds and obstacles, some women have succeeded as artists throughout history. Matters are improving - slowly - and you can visit an impressive collection of work by contemporary women artists at the online gallery of New Hall College Cambridge's Art Collection.

Related post: art history raced

1 comment:

arlene k said...

Absolutely stunning and thought-provoking - thank you! Saw a wonderful exhibition dedicated to female artist, Berthe Morisot, in Lille a couple of years ago...