Women Artists

5 Modern Women Artists to Know

Anastasia Tsaleza 1 March 2022 min Read

When we think of modern women artists, certain names immediately come to mind. For instance, anyone can name Frida Kahlo, and the more well-read will even mention names like Leonora Carrington or Hilma af Klint. However, the art of women who lived and created in the 20th century is a lot more multifaceted. While it is commendable that some women artists’ names are increasingly garnering the attention of mainstream media, a lot is still left to be desired in terms of the public’s focus. So, in honor of March, in which we celebrate Women’s History Month, we invite you to discover 5 modern women artists that you probably haven’t heard of before, based on your current favorite modern woman artist.

Consider this article your starting point, as we have prepared a handy guide for you based on your preferences. So let’s meet 5 modern women artists to know!

Leonor Fini

5 Modern Women Artists to Know
Leonor Fini, In the Tower/Self Portrait, 1952, Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Leonor Fini (1907-1996), an Argentinian Surrealist painter, received no formal artistic training. Nevertheless, she had her first solo exhibition in Milan at the age of just 22. She ran in the same circles as Salvador Dali and Max Ernst and became close friends with Dorothea Tanning.

Modern Women Artists
Leonor Fini, Little Hermit Sphinx, 1948, Tate Modern, London, UK. 

Fini’s work is famous for depicting exclusively female and androgynous figures, as well as mythological creatures and symbols of witchcraft. Similarly, wanting to shake the male-dominated Surrealist scene, she depicted women in positions of power. In addition, this something she also espoused in what was dubbed her “eccentric” lifestyle, as she was openly bisexual, at a time when that was frowned upon. The artist continued to write, illustrate and design costumes until the age of 88, when she died in Paris, France.

Augusta Savage

5 Modern Women Artists to Know
Augusta Savage, Portrait Head of John Henry, 1942, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

Augusta Savage (1892-1962) was a sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance and a proponent for racial equality in the arts. She began working with clay as a child, and, despite her father’s disapproval, studied sculpture at Cooper Union.

Modern Women Artists
Augusta Savage, Gamin, 1929. Toomey & Co.

Unfortunately, she missed out on many opportunities due to racial discrimination, something she always fought against, while continuing to work on her craft. She focused on busts depicting the everyday, working-class African Americans, not in the primitive and fetishized way that was the norm at the time, but in a humane and realistic manner. Passing away in New York City at the age of 70, she left behind her a long legacy for both the African American community and the arts.

Gertrude Abercrombie

5 Modern Women Artists to Know
Gertrude Abercrombie, Untitled (Countess Narone on Chaise with White Cat and Lonely Tree Painting), 1951, private collection. ArtNet.

Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977) was a one of the modern women artists from American Surrealist movement. She studied figure drawing and, at age 23, began to focus exclusively on art.

5 Modern Women Artists to Know
Gertrude Abercrombie, Coming Home, 1947, private collection. ArtNet.

Her favorite themes were empty landscapes, portraits and still lifes. These canvases always included a touch of witchcraft; she used symbolic figures traditionally associated with it, like owls, cats and broomsticks. Abercrombie stated:

It is always myself that I paint. I like to paint simple things that are a little strange

Gertrude Abercrombie, Artland.

Her style, minimalistic and austere with long lines and hues of primary colors taking over her works, is what renders them so characteristic. The artist passed away in Chicago at the age of 68.

Eileen Agar

5 Modern Women Artists to Know
Eileen Agar, The Autobiography of an Embryo, 1933-1934, Tate Modern, London, UK. 

British Surrealist painter and photographer Eileen Agar (1899-1991) learned to appreciate art from an early age. She moved to France, where she developed a friendship with the Surrealist pioneer André Breton. There, she toured the studios of various artists. Eventually, she decided to return to England, inspired and full of ideas of her own.

Modern Women Artists
Eileen Agar, Three Symbols, 1930, Tate Modern, London, UK.

After that, Agar started working on her art. She joined the famed London Group and experimented with different types of materials and techniques. Examples of her experimentation include the found object, collage and object photography, all of which were radical at the time. Her success, however, was unequivocal – she even held 16 solo exhibitions during her lifetime. She died in London at the age of 91.

María Izquierdo

Modern Women Artists
María Izquierdo, Sorrowful Friday, 1944-1945, Colección Blaisten, Mexico City, Mexico.

María Izquierdo (1902-1955) was a Mexican modern woman artist, a painter and a student of Diego Rivera. She dedicated her life to creating works of art that proudly depicted her “mexicanidad” (Mexican identity).

5 Modern Women Artists to Know
María Izquierdo, Self Portrait, 1947, Colección Blaisten, Mexico City, Mexico.

Izquierdo liked merging different issues together in her canvases; traditional gender roles/values, nationalism and identity clashed in her works. This set them apart, both in subject matter and in technique. Her art is most renowned for her inventive depictions of national pride intertwined with religion. She always used colors that were bright and contrasting, just like the themes in her art were. She died in Mexico City at the age of 53.

We hope you use this as an opportunity to delve into the works of one (or all!) of these relatively obscure but nevertheless brilliant artists. In this way, you’ll both be broadening your artistic horizons, as well as propelling the names of female artists worthy of recognition into fame, increasing awareness about them and their oeuvre. It’s a win-win.

Happy Women’s History Month!

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