Episode #20: Sofonisba Anguissola: Great (Woman) Artist / by Jennifer Dasal

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Earlier this spring, I saw a hashtag making the rounds online, especially on Twitter and Instagram. Half the time, I only just vaguely pay attention to the trending terms on social media, but this one hit me right away. For a lot of people, including myself, it was like seeing an old beloved friend again- because this isn’t a new hashtag. It’s over a year old and was initiated originally by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with Women’s History Month, celebrated every year in March.  It read #5WomenArtists and was meant as a kind of dare. As the museum’s digital editorial assistant, Emily Haight, posted on their blog, “Ask someone to name five artists and responses will likely include names such as Warhol, Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, da Vinci—all male artists. Ask someone to name five women artists, and the question poses more of a challenge.”

It’s a sad, but true, statement. Can many of us--especially those without in-depth artistic training or interest-- really name five or more women artists? Maybe, if you’re lucky, you can remember Frida Kahlo or Georgia O’Keeffe. And bonus points if you can recall our previous discussion on Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun. But especially in terms of artists who were around prior to the 20th century, the game grows much harder.

Why? What’s the problem of the woman artist? And how can we fix it?  Today, we’re talking about women artists-- the historical difficulties in becoming an artist, the challenges present therein, and the limitations and legacies of one very important Renaissance painter.

Today’s special episode of ArtCurious is the end result of a collaboration with art historian Ellen Oreddson and her excellent blog, How to Talk About Art History. Ellen has her own contribution to this topic on her site, where she lists five artists, inspired by the five women artists hashtag, and briefly discusses why each has been left out of the traditional art historical canon. Don't miss this insightful and fascinating post!

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Want more art-historical goodness? Check out the links below:

Italy Magazine: Sofonisba Anguissola- A Renaissance Woman

Smarthistory: Sofonisba Anguissola

ArtNews: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

National Museum of Women in the Arts Blog: Challenge Accepted: Can You Name Five Women Artists?