All the Painting Ladies

13 Apr 2014

Judith and Her Maidservant by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1613, oil on canvas.
Judith and Her Maidservant by Artemisia Gentileschi,
1613, oil painting on canvas.
I'm not one to put artist before artwork. If I like the painting or drawing, it has nothing to do with who the art-maker is.

But that doesn't mean that I don't believe in acknowledging an incredible group of working artists past and present, all of whom happen to be women. Here are a few of my favorite female artists and why I think they are worth all the accolades they get and more.

Artemisia Gentileschi—Gentileschi is a titan of the Baroque period. Working in the style typified by Caravaggio, she brought her own point of view to the Biblical and mythical subjects of her day. She also had an eye for capturing the perfect moment in her fine art oil paintings, as in Judith and Her Maidservant, in which the hand holding the sword resting on Judith's shoulder looks so natural, and the angle of the two figures' perfectly indicates that they were startled by a noise behind them.

Louise Nevelson—The power of assemblage hits home to me in Nevelson's work, and it says a lot that you know her work when you see it. It is distinctive and unlike anything else I've seen in terms of iconography. Her work can't be tied down to a movement or manifesto; it freely roams from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism and others.

Sherrie McGraw—If I could steal anyone's hands, I'd make a grab for McGraw's. Her abilities as a draftsman are truly inspiring, and she creates such a delicate balance on paper, never stifling a drawing's openness and ease, yet employing so much skill to get there. Her sketching techniques have been a revelation to me. I've learned a lot from studying her work.

The Road to Decoration City by Lisa Sanditz, 2008, acrylic on linen.
The Road to Decoration City by Lisa Sanditz,
2008, acrylic painting on linen.
Lisa Sanditz—Sanditz does something that a lot of artists are trying to do right now: blend representational qualities in their work with abstraction. She must have really honed instincts or she goes through a lot of canvas, because she just seems to get it right.

Evening in Paris by Betye Saar, 2010, mixed media assemblage.
Evening in Paris by Betye Saar,
2010, mixed media assemblage.
Betye Saar—I first knew of Saar through her assemblages, which I have been privileged to write about, but I've stayed an ardent follower of hers because of her collages. They are incredibly poignant and articulate strong and deep emotions so simply.

Lea Colie Wight—Unflinching is how I'd characterize Wight's works. She doesn't hesitate to look hard and peel away the excess and fluff that mask what we really see. I'm especially drawn to her self-portraits, which show a strong will and penetrating gaze, and have learned a lot from her about how to make the most of a simple figural composition.

Our art history brims over with exceptional artists, and these are just a few of them, but their contributions are amazing in and of themselves. Plus these artists paved the way for those of us practicing centuries later or who are carrying on the tradition in our own practices today. Sadie Valeri is doing her part; a notable and worthy artist who reinforces what a living, breathing, growing source of artistic inspiration painting is. Her eMagazine and DVD are certainly worth your consideration. Enjoy!

Leave a comment telling me who your favorite female artists are. I can't wait to see your top picks!


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on 17 Aug 2011 10:20 AM

My favorite female artist is Mary Whyte.  She is not only a fabulous artist but also an incredibly gracious lady.  Plus, I think she has to be the highest paid watercolor artist in the country today.  Her Working South exhibit is amazing.

martyatwell wrote
on 17 Aug 2011 10:42 AM

Three of my favorites:

Francoise Gilot

Georgia O'Keefe

Deborah Butterfield

sunagape wrote
on 17 Aug 2011 10:51 AM

Pamela Sukhum is a brilliant young artist whose work is commanding more and more attention. If you haven't seen her stuff, now's the time.

brittsnana wrote
on 17 Aug 2011 11:23 AM

I was wondering why you didn't mention the severed head in the basket.  I wasn't expecting to see that

Karen Marks wrote
on 17 Aug 2011 12:01 PM

My fav is Linda Willams McCune she is an amazing sculptor and artist.

on 17 Aug 2011 1:19 PM

I love Cecilia Beaux and Mary Cassatt, I guess because I am a pastellist myself.  Also contemporary artists like Illene Geinger-Stanfield, Naomi Campbell (not the model),  Jody Depew MacLeane, and Carolyn Anderson.  Thank you for your wonderful email letter -- I always enjoy and learn from it.

Anita Beaty, Atlanta, Georgia

on 17 Aug 2011 7:35 PM

How to choose? We all have our favourites, from whom we learn so much:

Carol Allison, Juliette Aristides, Nan Faure Greacen, Cynthia Henry, Cindy House, Mary Kathryn Massey, Ann Didusch Schuler, Nell Walker Warner, Patricia Watwood.

Over the years I have chosen these nine ladies from my long list of admired Women Artists.  And Courtney, of course.

Avery Vaughan.

August 17, 2011

on 17 Aug 2011 9:50 PM

Love your blog and email newsletter. There is an error however that I noticed and needing correcting - Artemisia was a student of her famous Father Orozao - NOT Caravaggio. She did not study under Caravaggio, as he was dead already. Caravaggio was only an "influence."

In addition, I'd like to add there is a wonderful book: "Woman, Art and Society" (Whitney) that should be in every female artist's library. Great reference source on Woman Artists thru the ages.

lovelanj wrote
on 17 Aug 2011 9:52 PM

You've got 2 of them:   Gentileschi and Lea Wight, who I've studied with -  and add Kathe Kollwitz, her draughtsman skills are displayed in her 1924 and 1933 self portraits.

Frances42 wrote
on 18 Aug 2011 4:29 AM

What about Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell,and Paula Rego?

on 18 Aug 2011 7:38 AM

Going back a bit, a truely sad life but an incredible sculptor - Camille Claudel.

But the first that comes to mind is Cecilia Beaux - she easily rivaled Chase and Sargent.

Currently, a powerhouse is Carolyn Anderson - a talented and generous artist.

Also Kathryn Stats - tremendous landscapes.

I hestitate with Georgia O'Keeffe. - not a likeable person for me and her paintings not my favorites but she DID make an impression! You gotta give her that.

meggan71 wrote
on 22 Aug 2011 1:53 PM

Angelica Kaufmann and Berthe Morisot inspire me... Angelica Kaufmann painted in the late 18th and early 19th century and studied under Sir Joshua Reynolds...

Berthe Morisot hung around with the them! :-)

on 14 Apr 2014 7:10 AM

My favourite natural of art feelings.I'm not following any one.I want to feel .that's all .I like these painting also.its make me feel wonder...

on 14 Apr 2014 2:31 PM


Artemisia Gentileschi — I went to high school with her brother!