When it was widely believed that a woman’s place was in the home, there were those who defied these opinions through women-led storytelling. Through different mediums of art - from abstract paintings to real-life photography - women expressed their own experiences through a female lens, challenging societal norms of the pre-20th Century.
Having taken inspiration from Katy Hessel’s book ‘The Story Of Art Without Men’ (who describes her own experiences regarding a lack of female representation present at art fairs and exhibitions) we wanted to showcase some of the extraordinary artwork created by women over the years, including some of the lesser-known artists that are sadly overlooked.
As Hessel describes in her book, female exclusion throughout history is an urgent issue, but through the activism of feminists, artists, and scholars in more recent times, under-representation is finally being challenged. However, according to the statistics it is still far from enough. Hessel explains in her book that currently, women artists make up just 1 percent of London’s National Gallery collection, so it is probably unsurprising if you haven’t heard of some of the artists in our online store before.
With that in mind, we felt encouraged to write a blog series titled Women in the Arts, shining a spotlight on talented women throughout history. As we introduce you to some of these incredible women artists, you might just find your next favourite in our collection!
Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 - 1717) was a pioneering artist and is best known for her drawings and brightly coloured watercolours documenting the natural world. Along with being an exceptional creative, Merian was also a respected scholar of the natural sciences and a successful businesswoman.
Her intricate botanical illustrations helped to understand the life cycles of butterflies, moths and insects. She was obsessed with the origins and development of insects from a very young age, and through keeping her own caterpillars for over 50 years, she understood their stages of metamorphosis through first-hand knowledge.
Maria Sibylla Merian paid little attention to conventions of the day, and instead chose to forge a successful independent career as an artist, which led to her work being respected by her peers and influential in the study of entomology, with David Attenborough considering her to be among the more significant contributors to that field of research.
You can browse Maria Sibylla Merian art prints, other botanical art prints, colourful paintings and science illustrations on our website.
One of the better known artists in our collection is Hilma af Klint (1862 - 1944). Not only is she considered to be one of Sweden’s most esteemed artists, she is now celebrated all over the world. Af Klint established herself as a respected artist in figurative painting, but from a young age her interests were in spiritualism, which influenced what she called her ‘great work’.
Af Klint practised seances and attended lectures to satisfy her thirst for the spiritual, but it wasn’t until after the death of her younger sister that she started to incorporate Spiritualism into her art. Her earlier portrait and landscape paintings were thought to be the only kind of work she had created, but at her own request, her otherworldly artworks were made public 20 years after her death. These paintings have only recently attained recognition as some of the first known abstract works in Western art, predating more famous male contemporaries like Kandinsky and Mondrian, with her solo exhibitions having since broken attendance records.
“Undoubtedly, they were ahead of their time, and today they are proving to be more influential and popular than ever.” - Katy Hessel, The Story of Art Without Men
A still-life painter, Rachel Ruysch (1664 - 1750) specialised in flowers, creating her own sophisticated style and depictions of flora and fauna. Despite often being left out of the history books, her works were highly sought-after during her lifetime. She achieved international fame and experienced great financial success, which was on par with the male painters of her day.
Ruysch impressed her contemporaries with her unique blend of flowers and exotic plants from different seasons, and often included insects that can be spotted on close inspection.
You can find Rachel Ruysch art prints, framed flower paintings, floral art and still life prints on our website.
Mary Delany (1700 - 1788) was an English artist known for her paper-cutting technique in creating unique flower collages. She created almost 1000 botanical “paper mosaiks” as she called them, which were intricate floral collages featuring vibrant colours and shapes. Delany continued her projects until her eyesight began to fail towards the end of her life.
It is thought that her groundbreaking technique is one of the first examples of collage in the history of Western art. The bold flowers contrast with the dark backgrounds to create an impactful piece of work.
Browse more floral art prints, Mary Delany flower collages, floral artwork and flower art prints on our website.
Anna Atkins (1799 - 1871) was an English botanist and photographer who used the photographic process ‘Cyanotype’ to create detailed botanical artworks. Her work feels very modern, and it’s hard to believe that these were created in the 1800s!
Atkins' distinctive dark, blue-toned images set her apart from her peers, and she also was a keen illustrator, choosing to capture the fine details of shells in her drawings. Anna Atkins is often considered as the first person to create a book illustrated with photographic images, which she self-published.
Her work was largely ignored until many years after her death. Her book ‘British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions’ was reissued in 1985 and finally got her name out there, drawing attention to her stunning, futuristic creations.
If you’re looking for more flower themed artwork or Anna Atkins prints, you can find them on our website.
Evelyn de Morgan (1855 - 1919) was an English painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. She rebelled against her parents’ wishes and enrolled in art school to follow her dreams of becoming a painter. During this time, women in England were given access to the life room for the very first time, where they could make drawings from nude models and master depicting the human form. De Morgan was praised for her studies of the nude and was awarded prizes ahead of many of her male classmates!
Her depictions of the female form were created through spiritual and mythological influences to create what several scholars have described as being feminist content. Evelyn de Morgan was in fact a self-proclaimed feminist, and a campaigner for women’s rights during her lifetime. This gave her work deep political meaning, from her depictions of women, to her later pacifist works created in response to war.
At Pathos Studio we are passionate and dedicated to sharing the works of artists from all walks of life. This includes celebrating women’s contributions to art and sharing the names of those scarcely recognised due to gender inequality throughout history.
We offer a wide selection of art prints featuring the works of all of the artists mentioned in this post, with the option to have your chosen artwork printed on our eco-friendly textured cotton fine art paper and ready-framed.
Browse our Women In The Arts Collection now!
If you’re interested in learning more about women artists, we will be writing a second part to our Women in the Arts blog series soon. We also highly recommend picking up a copy of Katy Hessel’s wonderful book ‘The Story Of Art Without Men. Follow Katy Hessel’s page on Instagram @thegreatwomenartists