homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

Once overlooked female Old Masters finally getting their due

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 04, 2019

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Flowers, Goblet, Dried Fruit, and Pretzels, 1611

There’s growing visibility and demand for the work of female artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, from The Museo Nacional del Prado showcasing the work of Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana as part of its 200th anniversary programming, to Sotheby’s achieving record-breaking prices for female Old Masters, to D.C.’s National Museum of Women in the Arts current “Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age.”

Anguissola was a celebrated portraitist in the late 16th and early 17th centuries whose fame earned her a place as a lady-in-waiting to Isabel de Valois at the court of King Philip II of Spain. Fontana worked around the same time in Rome and Bologna, disregarding the limits of genres imposed on her sex, even painting from the nude—a practice from which women were generally excluded at the time.

Michaelina Wautier, Two Girls as Saint Agnes and Saint Dorothea, 1643-59

As often happens when trying to right some imbalances, it starts with breaking the loop of being too unknown to be featured but needing to be exhibited to become known.

Art historian Katlijne Van der Stighelen first rediscovered the Baroque painter Michaelina Wautier in the 1990s, but found it impossible to get support for an exhibition as museums would not risk gambling on an unknown artist. It was not until the Flanders tourism department decided to invest heavily in a three-year exhibition program, beginning in 2018 with Peter Paul Rubens and Baroque painting, that she finally got her chance.

Until of course someone finally “takes a chance” only to find out that yes, there is a thirst for more diversity of voices in all domains.

The response exceeded anything Van der Stighelen or MAS could have hoped for. Both the national and international press were attracted by the “surprise element” of an artist so technically accomplished, yet completely unknown. By the time the show came down in September 2018, some 40,000 visitors had seen it—about four times the usual number for a summer show at MAS, according to Van der Stighelen.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Magdalene as Melancholy