This New Online Database Will Let You Discover Overlooked 15th-19th Century Female Artists
Because women artists deserve their place in art history.
For centuries, women have been deeply involved in the art world, whether as creators, muses, patrons, collectors, and critics. But in spite of this, the role of women in the art world has been minimised, and the works of prolific women artists have been overlooked and nearly forgotten. Even those who have some background in art history struggle to name female classical artists.
Women have been erased from art history for centuries. Art forms like textiles and the "decorative arts" were usually dismissed as craft and not "fine art". Most women were prevented from pursuing an education. And great female classical artists were often described as unusually talented beings who had to overcome their gender's limitations to excel in the art world.
One example is British artist Mary Beale. Though she was a prolific portraitist in the late 1600s, her success was often attributed to her husband, who managed their studio and presented her works as experiments in his painting methods.
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Mary Beale, c. 1666, by Mary Beale (English, 1633-99). On display in Room 6 at the @nationalportraitgallery, https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw00422/Mary-Beale?LinkID=mp00310&role=art&rNo=1 #womenartists #womanselfportrait #femaleoldmaster #artherstory #marybeale #17thcenturyenglishportrait #englishwomanartist #selfportrait
It's this erasure that has led one group to create a platform for the public to discover works of great female classical artists.
"A Space of Their Own" is a new online database dedicated to female artists from the 15th to 19th centuries. Since 2017, A Space of Their Own has been compiling a list of female artists active in the US and Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries.
So far, it has compiled a master list of over 600 artists, after reaching out to over 2,000 museums. The project was created in collaboration with Advancing Women Artists foundation (AWA) — a nonprofit based in Florence that's dedicated to identifying, restoring, and exhibiting art by women.
Other Online Databases Dedicated To Female Classical Artists
A Space of Their Own isn't the first of its kind. There are other online databases dedicated to female artists. Some of them include:
1. Clara. An interactive database containing information on 18,000 women visual artists from all time periods and nationalities.
2. AWARE. The Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions is a French nonprofit that maintains a virtual resource centre devoted to female artists born between 1860-1972.
3. Women Who Draw. Women Who Draw is an online directory of female and gender non-conforming professional illustrators, artists, and cartoonists. It aims to highlight illustration by women, women of colour, LGBTQ+ and other less visible groups.
But even with these existing databases, there is still a need for A Space of Their Own.
“[No other database will] cover as many women from all Europe, with as much information as possible including a robust bibliography and as large an image base as possible,” explains Indiana University art professor Adelheid Gealt, the project director, in an interview with Hyperallergic. “We also hope to have a space in which scholars will contribute new information.”
A Space of Their Own is scheduled to launch as early as the fall of 2019.