Women in Art History


An Uphill Battle by Shirl Ireland 6" x 6" Oil on panel


Considering that the beginning of the modern era of Art is around the fifteen and sixteenth centuries, we'll start there.


Many women have faced an uphill battle to create their art and be recognized for it throughout history. I’m sure you’ve heard of famous artist men from the Renaissance like Michelangelo or Da Vinci, but women held little authority as artists in the world back then. Luckily, some made it through to pursue Art and share their voice when circumstances lined up ‘just right’. Their stories are illuminating and compelling, although often buried or left out of text books - but well worth sharing!


It was often believed that women could not achieve true artistic vision because in society back then they were perceived to lack intelligence, character, and strength. They were barred from art academies and dissuaded from taking up painting or sculpture. Women were encouraged to stick to more "feminine duties" like cooking, cleaning, and child bearing. Those who didn’t were considered scandalous!

Into The Storm by Shirl Ireland 18" x 30" Oil on linen


Even with societal norms against them, a few women did learn Art (most from their fathers or private tutors) and eventually used their talents to make a living. But women as painters were generally confined to commissioned portrait painting, which at the time was considered a substandard level of artistic expression.


The Renaissance and Baroque eras opened the world of art to precious few females. But some made it through that crack, widening it just a bit, to make it a little easier for those to come after them.


Being Women's History Month, it's a good time to acknowledge these past women for their sacrifice, devotion and pioneering spirit into the world of art.


These women have paved the way for others, like me, for generations. So I'm kicking off this series tomorrow with a post about the first great woman painter of the Renaissance on International Women's Day. You'll be fascinated at what she was able to accomplish during that era! Then, I'll be continuing with this series about other specific women artists that have made a difference in Art History. So stay tuned.


See you tomorrow on International Women's Day March 8, to find out more about a female artist who played a large part in the Italian Renaissance and laid the ground work for women artists today...


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