Can you name five women artists? During the month of March, The National Museum of Women in the Arts is asking this as part of their annual initiative to recognize females in the art world. As tribute to Women’s History Month, the NMWA will use the hashtag #5WomenArtists to challenge people to name five female artists. Can you?
Peggy Bacon (1895 – 1987) was an American printmaker, illustrator and author. She was a well-known caricaturist of prominent and interesting figures of the late 1920s and 1930s. Bacon studied at the Art Students League in New York. Prior to her completion, Bacon had already exhibited her work and published an illustrated book. She was integrated into the New York arts scene and studied under John Sloan (1871-1951) and George Bellows (1882 – 1925). Like her mentors, Bacon focused on modern life, but hers was always with a touch of humor. Outside of exhibitions, her work was published in The New Yorker and Town and Country magazines. Bacon’s works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as in Cheekwood’s collection of works on paper.
“The aim of a caricature is to heighten and intensify to the point of absurdity all the subject’s most striking attributes; a caricature should not necessarily stop at ridiculing the features but should include in its extravagant appraisal whatever of the figure may be needed to explain the personality, the whole drawing imparting a spicy and clairvoyant comment upon the subject’s peculiarities.”[i] – Peggy Bacon, n.d.
Isabel Bishop (1902 – 1988) was an American painter and graphic artist. Bishop was a leader of the Fourteenth Street School of artists that continued the legacy of urban realist painting from the Ashcan school. These and other relatively untheoretical urban realists generally highlighted the bustle of the rapidly modernizing city. Bishop’s work focused on fleeting moments in New Yorker’s daily lives. Bishop only created 175 works in nearly 60 years, putting a great focus on sketches and the planning of a painting. Cheekwood’s collection of works on paper boasts several etchings and sketches by Bishop. Bishop’s works is also in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895 – 1989) was an American photographer. Dahl-Wolfe was a fashion photographer from 1936 – 1958 for Harper’s Bazaar. She was known for her exacting ideals in the reproduction of her images. Her insistence set the standards of elegance for fashion photography in the 1940s and 1950s. Dahl-Wolfe shifted away from “stiff societal portraits to a more natural and relaxed style of photography”[ii] that is still in effect today. Her photographs captured the new sensibility of the modern woman, more independent and active, often shot in glamorous, exotic locales. In 1964 and, again, in 1984, Dahl-Wolfe donated 1929 photographs to Cheekwood’s collections. Her work is also in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Museum of Modern Art.
“The camera is a medium of light, one that actually paints with light. In using the spotlights with reflecting lights, I could control the quality of the forms revealed to build a composition. Photography to my mind is not a fine art. It is splendid for recording a period in time, but it had definite limitations, and the photographer certainly doesn’t have the freedoms of a painter.”[iii] – Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1984
Lee Krasner (1908 – 1984) was an American painter. Krasner was a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement in the immediate postwar period of the late 1940s and 1950s. Abstract expressionists were interested in monumental size works that reflected spontaneity and expressions of feeling. Krasner’s painterly style of abstract expressionism was influenced of Henri Matisse (1869-1964) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). Art historian Robert Hobbs said “Krasner’s brand of Abstract Expressionism was different from that of her male colleagues. Where they saw painting as a personal expression of self, she saw her art as an open-ended exploration – an exploration that never resolved itself into a single, signature style…Her style was constantly changing and re-forming as herself grew and changed.”[iv] Krasner’s work is in the permanent collections of major museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Cheekwood.
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was an American painter. O’Keeffe was a major figure in American art for seven decades. Her primary subjects were landscapes, flowers and bones, O’Keeffe produced some 900 paintings of uniquely American images. O’Keeffe was in the circle of early American modernists, as well as influential art critics and writers. Their discussions about art greatly validated and influenced O’Keeffe’s own work. In 1949, O’Keeffe moved permanently from the New York art scene to New Mexico where she had spent significant time prior, always producing some of her most important paintings. Despite this shift, O’Keeffe and her work solidified her place in the canon of American art. Her work is the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. Cheekwood holds a small collection of works on paper by O’Keeffe from the John A. and Margaret Hill Collection of Southwest Art, given to the museum in 1991.
Isabel Bishop, Coke Break. 1969.7.
[i] “Peggy Bacon.” American Art 6, no. 4 (1992): 17. Accessed March 10, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/3109079.
[ii] Schwiegershausen, Erica. “A Legendary Fashion Photographer, Revisited.” The New York Times, April 20, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/20/t-magazine/fashion/fashion-photographer-louise-dahl-wolfe-book.html.
[iii] Arnold, Rebecca. “Looking American: Louise Dahl-Wolfes Fashion Photographs of the 1930s and 1940s.” Fashion Theory 6, no. 1 (2002): 45–60. https://doi.org/10.2752/136270402778869127.
[iv] Simpson, Pamela H. Woman’s Art Journal 22, no. 1 (2001): 59-61. Accessed March 10, 2020. doi:10.2307/1358737.