4 Women Artists Who Changed Art Forever

Women artists such as Mary Cassat, Frida Kahlo, Hilma af Klint, and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun made names for themselves throughout their lives. Yet, the peak of their fame was reached long after their debuts. It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that the art world, consisting of critics, producers, collectors, and other promoters, started acknowledging a greater artistic movement.

The 1960s harbingered the emergence of some of the most significant and massive art movements to date, including Feminist Art, Conceptual Art, Pop Art, and Performance Art. Those echoes were reflective of the demand for cultural, political, and social change, bringing women artists into the spotlight as they started addressing political disorders, bodily autonomy, and environmental crises in their cultural and social manifestations. More importantly, they’d confront the perpetuation of patriarchy while becoming the voice of voiceless women worldwide. Fifty years after women artists began solidifying their position in the art world, this creative sector would never be the same.

Women Artists
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Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656)

Perceived as one of the most illustrious artists of the 17th century, Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi stands as an example of a skilled artist who broke down all the social barriers as she was fulfilling her calling. Artemisia’s father was a reputable painter and mentored her steps to success in a society where women had scarce opportunities to assert themselves. However, the fact that the bold woman artist worked for the central echelons of European society, such as Philip IV of Spain and Grand Duke of Tuscany, is seen as both a blessing and a curse. If there’s an artist who bore the brunt of the toxic masculinism of those days, it’s definitely Artemisia.

With a distinguished destiny, Artemisia aspired to be a young artist under the tutelage of her father, both having explored the Caravaggio style in tandem. Her unique work propelled her to become the first woman member of the Academy of the Arts of Drawing in Florence, lining up next to big names such as Michelangelo, Bartolomeo Ammannati, and Lazzaro Donati, unlocking her international client base.

Her artwork references powerful feminist and biblical themes, especially some of her most famous works, which she painted when she was 17 and 20, and named “Susanna and the Elders” and “Madonna and Child”. Artemisia befriended Galileo, who’s portrayed as the father of modern science, and became the inspiration behind George Eliot’s Romola—all in an era where women’s affirmation opportunities were limited. Now, Artemis has a seat at the “Dinner Party” table of Judy Chicago, a monument to feminine accomplishments throughout history.

Louise Joséphine Bourgeois (1911-2010)

Louise Bourgeois was a modern French-American artist whose many dark but groundbreaking sculptures heralded her strength to cope with her father’s poor morals that impacted her childhood. Known for large-scale installation art and sculptures, Louise Bourgeois was also a printmaker and one of the most notable painters of her times, exploring themes ranging from domesticity to the human body, family to sexuality. Despite possessing artwork reminiscent of the Feminist and Surrealism art movements, aligning herself with Abstract Expressionists, Bourgeois’ art isn’t associated with a style.

With a fruitful eight-decade career, Louise Bourgeois’ abstract artwork fusing psychoanalysis and modern art gave new nuances to gender norms, the unconscious, materiality, death, and other such concepts. Contemporary art has evolved dramatically since the mid-20th century, inspiring collectors and lovers to interpret modern works through unique perspectives. These constant waves of change are one of art’s most addictive traits. You can observe how varied themes and styles are when you look to buy art online and find yourself enamoured with expressionistic or illustrative portraits, all while the abstractly exposed innovative ideas leave you astonished and craving more. If history, with a focus on Louise Bourgeois, has taught people something, it is that art is always evocative of a feeling or image. It’s just the personal interpretation that varies.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755 -1842)

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, commonly mentioned as Madame Le Brun, captured Marie Antoinette’s attention at a young age. She entered the Académie de Saint-Luc membership, enjoying an extensive clientele range when she was just a denarian. She was endowed membership by the last queen of France in Paris’s renowned Royal Academy and married Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Brun when she turned 20. After living in Italy for a period, she returned to Europe to paint portraits in England, Vienna, Rome, Moscow, and other cities, ultimately spending her last 33 years in France.

Madame Le Brun secured her place among the most revolutionary artists of the late 18th century despite the numberless barriers women faced during that tumultuous period. Her fondness for portraying aristocratic women and her style, which combines a late Rococo with the Neoclassical style, helped her distinguish herself from the other women at the Academy. By the end of her life, Le Brun succeeded in boasting a collection of 200 landscapes and around 660 portraits, many of which are now presented at prominent museums like NY’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)

Georgia O’Keeffe, also known as the “Mother of American Modernism,” started with the humble young dream of becoming a seminal figure of the movement in the arts. Little did she know one of her paintings would sell for $44,405,000 in 2014, quadrupling the initial estimation, tripling the preceding female art piece’s value, and entering the world record book for the auction selling price.

O’Keeffe ranked among the forerunning creators of completely abstract artworks, contrasting the predominant trend of American realism. She’s now famous for painting deserts, flowers, skulls, and portraits. Her artwork stands out as staying independent of the leading art movements of those times.


Spanning centuries and starting when women’s artwork was overlooked and underestimated, famous names like those presented above cleared the way for successive generations of female artists. And notably, the list of bold and gifted women who changed the art industry forever can continue. This includes big names like Mary Cassatt, who lived between 1844 and 1926; Hilma af Klint, who marked the 1862 – 1944 period; and the unmatched Frida Kahlo, who achieved the impossible during 1907 and 1954, among others.

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