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10 Female Artists Who Have Shaped Art History

ALMA THOMAS (featured)

Washington, D.C. artist Alma Thomas is at work in her studio in this photograph taken by her friend Ida Jervis.


Thomas debuted her abstract work in an exhibition at Howard 1966, at the age of 75. Thomas’ abstractions have been compared with Byzantine mosaics, the Pointillist technique of Georges Seurat, and the paintings of the Washington Color School, yet her work is quite distinctive.

Thomas became an important role model for women, African Americans, and older artists. She was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, and she exhibited her paintings at the White House three times.


Alma Thomas, Snoopy Sees Earth Wrapped in Sunset, 1970, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1978.40.4

10 Female Artists Who Have Shaped Art History

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–c. 1652) is the most celebrated female painter of the 17th century.https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/artemisia-gentileschi

Angelica Kauffman (1741–1807) made a significant impact on the 18th-century London art scene, becoming one of only two female Founder Members of the Royal Academy. https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/name/angelica-kauffman-ra

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842) at 15 was painting the aristocracy, in her 20s she was the favoured painter of Marie-Antoinette, and by her 30s she was fleeing the French Revolution. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/international-womens-day-elisabeth-louise-vigee-le-brun

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954)considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, she is know for her many self portraits. Kahlo is viewed by many as an icon of female creativity.https://www.fridakahlo.org

Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) was one of the first and few women to join the French Impressionist movement of the late 19th century. Cassatt is credited for bringing this movement to the United States. While many Impressionists painted landscapes, Cassatt did portraits of women and children often portraying the bonds between mothers and children. Her goal was to portray women’s lives in a truthful, un-romanticized way. https://www.marycassatt.org

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) for seven decades, was a major figure in American art. Remarkably, she remained independent from shifting art trends and stayed true to her own vision, which was based on finding the essential, abstract forms in nature. ps://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/geok/hd_geok.htm

Alma Thomas (1891–1978) was the first Black woman to have a show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She was also the first Black woman to have work acquired by the White House. Her life was distinctive in other ways, too. As an artist and world traveler who never married or had children, she circumvented society’s expectations for Black women born in the 19th century. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/

Lee Krasner (1908–1984) was a force of nature, always pushing abstraction forward. A pioneer of Abstract Expressionism, she was also one of the key crusaders for Jackson Pollock’s legacy. https://www.moma.org/artists/3240

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011)an American abstract expressionist painter. She was a major contributor to the history of postwar American painting. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/helen-frankenthaler-1114

Yayoi Kusama (1929-) is a Japanese painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and performer, famously provocative avant-garde artist, best known for her works featuring repeating motifs and psychedelic imagery that evoke themes of psychology, feminism, obsession, sex, creation, destruction, and intense self-reflection. https://www.artnet.com/artists/yayoi-kusama/

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