50 Women Artists You Should Know, by Christiane Weidemann



Three stars, read in July 2015.

I picked this up expecting to just glance through it, but I ended up reading the whole thing. I also thought I would recognize several of the artists, but it turned out I’d only heard of Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Mary Cassatt. I feel like that’s embarrassing, but then again those are almost the only three you’d ever hear mentioned without studying art in depth, which I haven’t. So maybe it’s just sad on society’s part. There’s also the fact that around 1900, Weidemann stops mentioning painters entirely, highlighting performance artists, sculptors, and others who are much less likely to be widely known.

Most people, like me, probably didn’t know that there were female Renaissance painters who were famous in their own time, and Baroque and Impressionist and Rococo, too, who were commissioned by nobles and clergy and royalty and worked alongside the men whose names were the only ones to come down through history. Weidemann’s treatment of them is problematic; she always mentions the male artists they were associated with, often even indicating that the women got their style from the men (which is somehow only a negative thing when female artists are involved; men borrow from and are inspired by each other all the time, that’s just how the humanities work).

I found a lot of new (old) art to enjoy, and I was pleased to gain a little perspective on the spaces where female artists have been left out. Though there are issues with the way it’s presented, this book is a solid starting point for learning about women in art history.

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