Despite my complaining, sometimes I am reminded that it’s a truly good life us female artists have these days. While, I wanted to do a post reprimanding MoMA for only having shown 4 solo female shows… Ever.. (how can this be possible) I wanted to instead share the stories of some female artists whose lives have made it possible for the rest of us to do our craft. In these three examples, I try to show that over the past 100+ years, the status of woman artists has changed dramatically and their ability to get recognition has increased. So instead of focusing on how some of their male counterparts did them (incredibly) wrong, I want to mention that the choices that women have continue to grow and for that, I am so happy. Enjoy!
Camille Claudel. 1864 – 1943 Prodigy sculptress in the time period where that was strictly man’s work. She made the unfortunate mistake of meeting August Rodin who was in love with her beauty and, of course, her ability to sculpt as well as he could. So well that he signed his name to her work. And people wonder why she went kooky? She lost her lover (Rodin was married and never left his wife). She lost her baby. She lost her ability to sculpt and show her work because she was worried if people saw what she was doing they would take claim to it and therefore refuse her royalties aka her money to survive on. Her family, annoyed by bohemian life, locked her up in an insane asylum for 30 years even though the doctors said she didn’t need to be there. Well, that was inspiring.. It gets better…
Dora Maar. 1907 – 1997. Why do people only think about Dora Maar as Picasso’s lover, muse for his weeping women paintings, and propensity towards knife games? She was an incredibly talented photographer. In fact, she was renowned in Paris for her commercial photography and she is the one who took the photos of Guernica as Picasso was painting it. Let’s not forget that she studied with May Ray. Instead Dora Maar goes down in history as being the subject of one of the highest selling paintings at auction (Dora Maar au Chat) and as Picasso’s crazy weeping woman.
Lee Krasner. 1908 – 1984. Talk about a woman who could keep it all together. Prior to her marriage to Jackson Pollock, Lee studied at The Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design, and worked on the WPA Federal Art Project. It’s amazing, though, how marrying an alcoholic narcissist and keeping him relatively out of trouble, can keep you from developing your own work thoroughly. However, if it weren’t for Lee Krasner there would be no Jackson Pollock – he probably would have died in a gutter in Greenwich Village. But even with the obstacles before her, Lee Krasner is one of the four women to have had a retrospective at MoMA and whose work is considered essential to the New York School. In this chain of women, she is the one who broke the mold between supportive apprentice to renowned solo exhibitioner.