Female Artists You Need to Know

First up is Judith Leyster. She was born in 1609 to a Dutch family without an artistic background. Her last name means “Leading Star," which could explain why her signature was of a J with a star shooting out of it. She was actually the second female painter ever to join the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke.

A self portrait of Judith Leyster

She was famous during her lifetime. But, after her death, her popularity decreased and people forgot about her. It was like everything she achieved in her lifetime just vanished. Sure, her artwork remained. But, for years people believed that her artwork belonged to Frans Hals, a Dutch painter in the 17th century. It wasn’t until 1893 when her signature was discovered under a forged Hals signature, that the public knew the truth.

Next is Properzia de’ Rossi. She was a sculptor during the Renaissance. Like Judith, she came from a family that did not have a background in the arts. Her father was a notary, but he still managed to get her trained in drawing by Marcantonio Raimondi, a master at engraving. In the beginning, she crafted complicated sculptures that were carved into different mediums, like peach or cherry stones.

A painting of Properzia de’ Rossi

She beat out the men of her time by receiving major public commissions. In Bologna, she was able to decorate the high altar of Santa Maria del Baraccano. Properzia entered and won a contest that allowed her to create a marble sculpture on the west side of the San Petronio Church in Bologna. But, despite her talent and initial popularity, Properzia died with no money, friends, or close relatives.

Lastly, there is Sofonisba Anguissola. She was an Italian painter from the Renaissance and specialized in portraits. Sofonisba was born in 1532 and she grew up alongside her six sisters and one brother. All of the girls were trained in the arts, and four (including Sofonisba) went on to become artists.

A self portrait of Sofonisba Anguissola

Her portraits became popular; even her self-portraits were in high demand. She painted them in many different styles and shapes. She established an international reputation, and she was one of the first women of that time period to do so. Sofonisba was so talented that King Phillip II of Spain made her the official court painter and she stayed there for about ten years. Sadly, during a 17th century fire, most of her paintings from her time in Spain were destroyed.