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Female Artists from the Renaissance to the Twenty-First Century

Cornelia Feye, MA

This four-part lecture series will explore the art of female artists through six centuries. The represented artists were chosen not just because they were women, but because they were accomplished painters who happened to be women. In contrast to male artists, female artists have found it more difficult to exhibit successfully and be taken seriously. They were often overlooked in museum exhibitions until the groundbreaking 1976 LACMA exhibition Women Artists: 1550-1950, curated by Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin. But female artists always existed, from ancient Greek sculptresses, painters, and poets to medieval masters of illuminated manuscripts. Unfortunately, for most of them, we don’t have records of their names. Our lectures therefore begin in the Renaissance.

October 6: Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Renaissance to Baroque

With the new emphasis on the individual in the Renaissance, better records were kept about the art produced in Italy and Northern Europe by female artists. The Sixteenth Century is the first period for which not only names but also biographies and significant quantities of work by female artists exist. The women worked in a wide range of styles, from intimate portraits to large-scale altarpieces. Among others, we will explore the work of Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana from the Renaissance, and Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Leyster, and Rachel Ruysch from the Baroque.

October 20: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Rococo to Impressionism

During the eighteenth century, three female painters emerged to enjoy unprecedented critical and financial success: Angelica Kauffmann, Rosalba Carriera, and Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun. Though they came from different countries and backgrounds, they each began their careers painting portraits and were exceptionally accomplished. In the nineteenth century, a great number of female artists worked in a wide range of subjects and styles. Among them were Rosa Bonheur, Eva Gonzales, Berthe Morisot, and Mary Cassatt.

November 3: Twentieth Century until 1950

The twentieth century began with an explosion of new discoveries and artistic styles all over Europe. The trauma of World War I further prompted the development of art forms from Expressionism and Fauvism to Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. Women were actively involved in these new approaches to art. We will look at the work of Susanne Valadon, Paula Moderson-Becker, Gabriele Münter, Emily Carr, Sonia Delaunay, Georgia O’Keeffe, Hilma af Klint, Käthe Kollwitz, Alice Neel, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning, and others.

November 17: 1950-2017, Mid-Century to Present

After World War II the center of modern art shifted from Europe to New York. Abstract Expressionist painters like Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, and Grace Hartigan established themselves as equals to their male colleagues. Niki de Saint-Phalle, Bridget Riley, Eva Hesse, Judy Chicago, Miriam Shapiro, Eleanor Antin, Audrey Flack, Cindy Sherman, Vija Celmin, Marina Abramovic, and Yayoi Kusama took their art in unique and different directions. We will also include a few local artists like Jean Lowe and Michelle Montjoy.

Instructor: Cornelia Feye is an independent art scholar and the founder of Konstellation Press, an indie publishing company creating books and events at the intersection of art, music, and literature. She received her MA in Art History and Anthropology from the University of Tübingen, Germany. From 2007 to 2017 she was the Arts Education Director at the Athenaeum in La Jolla. Her 2011 novel, Spring of Tears, an art mystery set in France, won the San Diego Book Award for the mystery category. She has published two other art mysteries.

Coordinator: Steve Clarey

Course Number: OSHR-70058   Credit: 0 units

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