It’s Women’s History Month, and today we are celebrating famous American female artists.
Art is such a fluid and vast collection of mediums and it is challenging to cover all of them. There are so many inspirational artists in all genres (fine arts, acting, music, photography, etc.) across the centuries that the amazing women highlighted here are just a small sampling of.
I would love to hear about your favorite female artists in the comments!
Mary Cassatt was an American born artist who did her most well-known work in France during the Impressionist period. She was befriended by Edgar Degas. Mary’s work was accepted into the prestigious Paris Salon, a showcase of the finest art, in 1872, 1873, and 1874. Mary Cassatt is best known for her beautiful oil paintings of women, children, and families. Her artwork is displayed in museums around the world!
Mary was also a bold woman who bucked traditional female roles to follow her passion. She left home for Europe in 1866, against the wishes of her family and societies expectations of her. When the very strict guidelines of the Paris Salon became too tight, she drew heavy criticism for her use of color, brush strokes, and subjects in her paintings.
Another bold female painter, Georgia O’Keeffe is famous for her flower canvases and scenes of the American Southwest. Georgia was passionate about depicting flowers, bones, and landscapes. She had a meticulous eye, and captured in beautiful detail all elements of her subjects.
Georgia bucked the ever-changing trends of the art world, and stayed true to her vision. Over time, she became so enamored of New Mexico and the Southwest that she moved there.
The gifted singer displayed her talent from an early age. So much so that her church choir united to send Marian Anderson to study music under a renowned singing instructor. After her training, Marian’s singing career began to take off. She sang at Carnegie Hall before embarking on an European tour in the late 1920s.
In 1939, Marian became the center of a Civil Rights fight. Her manager booked her to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. However, the Daughters of the American Revolution barred Marian from performing because she was African-American. Instead, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited her to perform at the Lincoln Memorial.
One haunting portrait of a tired, careworn mother surrounded by her children has grown to epitomize the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Dorothea Lange took that picture, and many others, helping to document the lives of average Americans in beautiful photojournalistic style.
Dorothea’s subjects were not always glamorous, but her images of them are stunning. She wanted to really show the heart of her subjects. In World War II, Dorothea was hired to chronicle the lives of Japanese Americans in the internment camps.
Her photography continues to inspire social change and photographers today.
Born a slave, Harriet Powers is now known for her beautiful folk art quilts. While very little is known about her life, her quilts hang in the Smithsonian Museum of American History and Boston’s Museum of Fine Art.
Harriet combined traditional African storytelling and European quilting techniques to create story quilts. Often these includes both Bible stories and real events that were memorable to her community or Harriet personally.
Maria Tallchief is the first Native American ballerina. She broke boundaries and paved the way for a more diverse ballet. Maria danced with the famed Ballet Russe in Monte Carlo at the beginning of her career. in 1947, she became the first prima ballerina for the New York City Ballet, a title she held for 13 years.
Maria went on to work (and briefly marry) George Balanchine and found the Chicago City Ballet. For her impressive contributions to American ballet, Maria was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors for artistic contributions, as well as the National Medal of Arts.
Grace Kelly lived almost every little girl’s dream: she grew up to be a princess. However, she was so much more than just a beautiful face. In the 1950s, Grace rose to fame for her work in film. She starred in Dial M for Murder and The Country Girl, for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award in 1954.
In 1956, Grace abandoned her film career to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco. She seemed to embrace her role as ceremonial leader of her adopted country, and worked on many charitable and cultural projects there.
She is the familiar face who nurtures Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, but Hattie McDaniel had a rich film, stage, and radio career. However, it has defined her in the American mind for decades.
Hattie worked on the vaudeville stage starting in the 1920s before branching out into radio. In the 1930s, her brother and sister convinced her to move to L.A. and seek work in films. While her initial roles were small, Hattie continued to move up the ladder.
The high mark of Hattie’s career was being cast as Mammy in Gone with the Wind opposite Vivian Leigh. For her work on this film, Hattie became the very first African-American to be award the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1940.
Which female artists inspire you? Tell me in the comments!
- Radiant looking Grace Kelly waves good bye to New York from the ocean liner Constitution before sailing for Monaco and her wedding to Prince Rainier. (1956) Apr. 4. [Image] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2011660011.
- Lange, D., photographer. (1936) Migrant agricultural worker’s family. Seven children without food. Mother aged thirty two. Father is a native Californian. Nipomo, California. Feb. or Mar. [Image] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/fsa1998021554/PP.
- Van Vechten, C., photographer. (1950) [Portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, Abiquiu, New Mexico]. [Image] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2004663415.
- Cassatt, Mary, 1844-1926, artist. Mother’s kiss [graphic] / Mary Cassatt ; MC [monogram]. [Edition of 25, 4th state] [Place not identified] : [Publisher not identified],  1 print : color drypoint and aquatint ; plate 34.7 x 22.8 cm, on sheet 43.9 x 30.8 cm. FP – XIX – C343, no. 149 https://lccn.loc.gov/2015646310