Throughout the pages of history, women have stood as silent architects of society’s grandeur. Yet, their extraordinary contributions, gracing the realms of art, literature, and science, have remained the concealed gems that have often been overlooked and undervalued. This disregard can be attributed to the presence of gender-based obstacles and societal biases that hindered the recognition of women’s achievements. In the realm of art, women have often faced discouragement as they have frequently been depicted as subjects in numerous artworks, such as the Mona Lisa, but have seldom been celebrated as artists. However, they have made significant progress, evolving from marginalized figures to influential creators. It is imperative to celebrate the creativity and resilience of women in art by acknowledging the past and embracing the present.
Historically, female artists have not received full recognition for their contributions to arts, often being confined to traditional roles as homemakers. Despite the considerable barriers they faced, some women have managed to overcome these limitations even in the Elizabethan era and have made remarkable contributions as artists. These include Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653); painter of powerful and dramatic artworks that depicted strong female characters, Levina Teerlinc (1510-1576); served as the official painter to Elizabeth court, along with some others that broke free from the social norms to pursue art. This helped pave the way of artists in the Victorian era and produced noteworthy artists like Mary Cassatt (1844-1926); often associated with the Impressionist movement who specialized in depicting women and children. These female artists have not only enriched the world with their talent but have also served as a catalyst for change.
Despite advancements, female artists continue to confront significant challenges. Even in the 21st century, women are subjected to gender-based stereotypes, intensifying their struggle for adequate representation in exhibitions, art galleries, and auction houses. Remarkably, only two works by women have ever entered the top 100 auction sales for paintings. It is truly regrettable that, even today, women must contend with gender disparity, receiving significantly lower prices for their artwork compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, women have had limited access to networks and mentorship opportunities in male-dominated art world which has hindered the professional advancement and artistic development of women.
In the past few decades, there has been a shift where female artists have increasingly gained recognition for their efforts and valuable contributions in the art world. Artists from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures are bringing unique perspectives and experiences to their creations, infusing the world with more vibrant colors and fresh ideas. This includes Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) who is remembered for her attention to Mexican and indigenous culture and by feminists for her depiction of the female experience and form; Yayoi Kasuma (born 1929) who is recognized for her efforts in contemporary art and for challenging the traditional notions of art and is one of the most influential artists globally; Shirin Neshat (born 1957) who explored themes of gender, identity and cultural politics, challenging stereotypes, offering nuanced perspectives on the experiences of women in Islamic societies and sparking meaningful conversations about cultural diversity and Cindy Sherman (born 1954) who has challenged conventional representation of women in art and popular culture.
To create lasting change and promote gender equality in the art world, various initiatives are being taken to empower female artists which focus on addressing the imbalances and challenges faced specifically by women in art and providing them with opportunities to thrive and succeed. Female artists are now being provided with artist residencies, grants and fellowships to support them financially and specifically designed mentorship programs aimed to connect aspiring female artists with established professionals for guidance and networking. Besides, educational institutions have started to integrate the contributions of women into art history curriculum, challenging biases and stereotypes.
Women have undoubtedly been indispensable to the world of art and their contributions must be recognized and celebrated. It is only by understanding and acknowledging the challenges faced by women in art that we, as society, can foster a more inclusive and fair art community that is inclusive and welcoming, regardless of their gender, religion and ethnicity. With the celebration and recognition of female artists, we can empower the future generations and ensure that the voices and talents of women continue to shape the vibrant tapestry of the art world.