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3 Female Artists that Revolutionized the Art Scene

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

Trigger Warning: Topics of rape and mental illness are included in this article.

Throughout history, we’ve come to learn of so many great artists and their illustrious works of art: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Hokusai’s The Great Wave of Kanagawa and so on. However, if you’re like me, you may have noticed the lack of women’s names up in that list. Somewhere hidden in history, there are countless female artists that never got the recognition they deserved because of the world they live in. Therefore, for Women’s History Month, we are going to celebrate these brilliant women in art that I was never taught of and that so often become overlooked by the mainstream media. Here are just a handful of artists that, despite living in such a male dominated and woman-erasing profession, managed to leave their mark in herstory, forever changing the way the art world thinks and moves forward. 

Artemisia Gentileschi

“My illustrious lordship, I’ll show you what a woman can do”

Stephenson, K. (2018). Gentileschi Paintings, Bio, Ideas. The Art Story.

Although being denied artistic education due to being female, Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) became a prominent figure in the Italian Baroque art scene, following her father and family friend painter Carravagio’s dramatic realism style. As a teenager, she was unfortunately raped by her art instructer Tassi and risked her life to take him to trial. The process was gruesome with Gentileschi being forced to provide evidence under torture, but she won. Shortly after, she married Florentine and became the first woman to join Florence’s Academy of Design. Her work is recognized for its dramatism, deeply emotional and violent depictions, portraying female heroines taking charge, chopping heads and kicking ass. Her most famous paintings are: Madonna and Child, Susanna and the Elders and Judith Slaying Holofernes.

Sonia Delaunay

“Everything is feeling, everything is real joy. Color brings me joy.”

Igra, C. (2016). Sonia Delaunay Art, Bio, Ideas. The Art Story.

French artist Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) did not shy away from exploring all mediums, becoming a multi-disciplinary abstract artist well acquainted in painting, fashion and costume and set design. Pioneer and co-founder to the avant-garde movements Orphism and Simultanism, Delaunay was fascinated with color and how shaping it in certain forms could create a visual intensity. Her construction of fashion in particular was designed to fit the requirements of women: allowing for fun, work and play. She believed that everyone must move with a world in constant evolution by ridding itself of academic couture and the demand for aesthetic fashion and instead allow for the freedom of movement. Delaunay’s fashion was designed for the female body and not-against it. She called her designs a celebration of color, portrayed in works like Prismes électriques (Electric Prisms), Philomene and Rythme couleur.

Yayoi Kusama

“I fight pain, anxiety, and fear everyday, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art. […]”

Davis, K. (2017). Yayoi Kusama Art, Bio, Ideas. The Art Story.

Having been plagued with mental illness since she was a child, Yayoi Kusama (1929-) used art as a way to express and heal from the pain and anxiety she faced everyday. The Japanese contemporary artist has worked in painting, performance, video art, fashion, poetry and fiction, but primarily works on sculptures and installation. Despite growing up in the Japanese misogynistic culture and entering a male-dominated art scene, Kusama is persistent in her creativity and lifelong application to art. All this in good fortune as she is now known as one of the most unique and famous voices of the contemporary art scene. Her art evokes the themes of psychology, feminism, obsession, sex, creation, destruction and intense self-reflection. Kusama is proof of the persistent healing powers of art. Some of her most famous works include Dots Obsession, Pumpkin and Flowers.

The list goes on and on and on, women delving into different spectrums of art from performance to photography to installation, creating a new perspective with which to view politics, the environmental and humans rights, the human psyche and philosophy, broadening the spectrum of what art can show us about the world we live in. We must say their names, for all the ones who are not spoken of enough. With this, I invite you to continue your search and learn more about these powerful women and to put them back in herstory where they belong.

Allison Milián Sánchez is an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus. She’s studying General Drama. When she isn't writing, she's either reading poetry, plays or screenplays or dying to get back on stage and acting. Allison Milián is here to change the world through art and its never ending beauties!