Marie Vassilieff (1884-1957)
was a Russian painter, part of the Montparnasse artistic community of Paris at
the beginning of the 20th century. She worked mostly in the Cubist
In 1908 she founded the Russian Academy in Paris, which
later bore her name. In addition to her art, she is also known for the canteen
she ran before and during World War I, providing not only very cheap meals, but
a place of gathering for the artistic community.
Above: Femme Assise, 1910
Angela Bowen (1936-2018) was a dancer and teacher, as well
as a prominent LGBT activist. She served on the board of the National Coalition
of Black Lesbians and Gays.
She started dancing at
the age of 14 and later co-founded the Bowen/Peters School of Dance in New
Haven, Connecticut. She came out as lesbian late in life, but always spoke out
against homophobia, racism and sexism. She is the subject of the 2016 documentary The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen.
Sylvia Edwards (1937-2018) was an abstract artist, most famous for her UNICEF greeting
card designs. She has been featured in more than thirty solo and fifty group
exhibitions throughout her career.
studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and spent some time in Iran, where
she had her first exhibition in 1975. Her work has been exhibited in the Tate
in London and in the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington DC,
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942) was a famous art collector and patron. She
founded the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1931.
was an artist in her own right, starting a career as a sculptor in Paris. Her
first publicly presented work was Aspiration in 1901. Her work can now
be admired in public spaces around New York City, San Francisco and Washington,
D.C., among others.
Lili Elbe (1882-1931) was a transgender woman from Denmark,
one of the earliest recipients of sex reassignment surgery. She was the
subject of the famous 2015 film The Danish Girl.
She was a painter who
had studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine arts in Copenhagen. She travelled
around Europe with her wife, and became her favourite model for paintings.
After the 1930 surgery, which was still in its infancy, led to her eventual
death from cardiac arrest.
Above: Portrait by her spouse, Gerda Weneger, 1928
Remedios Varo (1908-1963) was a Spanish surrealist painter.
Her work often depicts androgynous figures and surreal dreamscapes.
Born in Girona, Spain,
she also lived and worked in France and Mexico. Her posthumous retrospective
exhibition organised at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City drew the
largest crowd in the museum’s history.
Above: Rouloutte, 1956
(1923-2015) was a
Canadian painter, sculptor and printmaker. She was considered a leader of the
Pattern and Decoration movement and a pioneer of feminist art.
frequently paid homage to other female artists, such as Frida Kahlo and Mary
Cassatt, in her work. Along with Judy Chicago, she established the Feminist Art
Program at the California Institute of Arts. He works can be admired at the
Jewish Museum in New York or the Smithsonian American Art Museum, among others.
North (1830-1890) was
a biologist and botanical artist, working in Victorian England. The North
Gallery in Kew Gardens, London, is named after her, and is the only permanent
solo exhibition by a female artist in Britain.
She travelled extensively
and captured botanical subjects from all over the world in her paintings. These
works were praised for their scientific accuracy and their ‘purity and
brilliancy of colour’. The gallery that bears her name opened in 1882 and can
still be visited today.
Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938) was a French artist who in 1894 became the first female
painter admitted into the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Her artistic career
lasted over four decades.
She started teaching herself to paint at
the age of nine, and studied techniques by modelling for painters in Montmartre.
Her work can now be admired at the MoMa in New York and the National Museum of
Women in the Arts in Washington DC, among others.
Above: Autoportrait, 1898
Gauhar (1956-2018) was
an actor, playwright and theatre director from Pakistan. She was also a women’s
rights activist, and the plays put on by her company dealt with social issues
and promoted a secular and equal society.
She studied at the University of London, but then returned to her native
country and founded Akoja Theatre in Lahore in 1983. Her 2007 play Burqavaganza, dealing with themes of gender discrimination and intolerance, was met
with calls for a ban and threats of sanction from the Pakistani government, but
found success internationally.