Art History, Reconstructed

As Suzanne mentioned in her art history post, a lot of people get turned off when they hear the words Art History. I mean, it does conjure up images of survey classes where there are so many names and dates and slides it leaves you crossed eyed. I remember those classes and the hideous amount of dates you need to memorize- if you don’t REALLY LOVE art history it is not that fun.

Back story: I have a minor in Art History and have slept sat through many, many slide lectures. But, I will say this: once you get past intro level surveys, it does get more interesting. Specialist and topic specific classes are infinitely more inspiring. I had a focus on Islamic art and architecture, pre-Christian art and once took an entire class on Iznik pottery of the Ottoman Empire- riveting!

I feel fortunate in my fundamental art history education because it allowed me to understand huge chunks of world history at the same time. However, there are huge gaps in my art history knowledge simply because it is such a vast subject. Also, some subjects were either not offered, not widely talked about or just outright ignored in the field. This is where I’m headed.

The Obvious Choice

Women in the arts have always been sorely underrepresented, but I am going one further. There are quite a few woman who were extremely talented in their own right, yet lived in the shadow of their famous male husbands and partners. Lee Krasner and Frida Khalo are two well known examples, and I’m going to dig into that a bit more. It also ties in with a Big Idea I’ve had for quite a few years (decades really), but I’ll save that for another day. Here’s my short list so far:

  • Elizabeth Siddall
  • Gabriele Münter
  • Margaret Keane
  • Lee Miller
  • Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun
  • Judith Leyster
  • Jo Hopper
  • Elaine de Kooning
  • Tirzah Garwood
  • Elizabeth Catlett
  • Gwen Knight

And some seriously overlooked women that really should be in the Renaissance, Late Classical, Art Deco/Nouveau and Romantic canons:

  • Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Hannah Höch
  • Sofonisba Anguissola
  • Tamara de Lempicka
  • Sonia Delaunay
  • Margaret & Frances Macdonald
  • Elisabeth Sonrel

I’ll also be exploring some influential women in applied arts fields, like Gunta Stöltz who modernized weaving at the Bauhaus school’s weaving workshop. You know, real specific niche art history you can get lost in- my favorite!

I’m Still A Sculptor At Heart

Speaking of niche, next month is Black History Month and I’m going to share some things that I’ve already been researching- black women sculptors of the Harlem Renaissance. I’ll also talk about one of the most influential metal sculptors on my younger self, Mel Edwards.

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