5 female artists who challenged the representation of women in 20th century

5 female artists who challenged the representation of women in 20th century

  • Posted on: August 9, 2014
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The twentieth century is rife with examples of women artists, feminist and otherwise. Artsome lists a few female artists who dared to challenge the mainstream representation of women in the art world and provided alternate ways of viewing them. These stunning images will leave you both intrigued and dazzled.


1.       PAULA M. BECKER

PAULA M. BECKER, Reclining Mother and Child, 1906, 550 × 369’’

Paula M. Becker, Reclining Mother and Child, 1906, 550 × 369’’

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876 –1907) was a German painter and one of the most important representatives of early expressionism. In a brief career tragically cut short at the young age of 31, she created a number of groundbreaking images of great intensity. She is recognised as the first female painter to paint female nudes.  This image is an example of using a bold subject matter and chromatic colour choice to present a dynamic work of art.



Amrita Shergill, Self-Portrait as Tahitian,1934 (oil on canvas),650 × 1054"

Amrita Shergill, Self-Portrait as Tahitian,1934, oil on canvas,650 × 1054″

Amrita Sher-Gil (1913 – 1941), was an eminent Indian painter born to a Punjabi father and a Jewish mother. She is sometimes known as India’s Frida Kahlo, an artist par excellence, and considered an iconoclastic woman painter of 20th century India. The images she made were about the complexities of life- she was of mixed parentage and her art school background in Paris made her both, an insider and outsider, as did her ambivalent sexuality- which promoted her to constantly reinvent her visual language. This image seeks to reconcile her modern sensibility with her upbeat resonance to traditional art-historical resources.


FRIDA KAHLO, The Broken Column, 1944,Painting, 572 × 750

Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column, 1944, Painting, 572 × 750″

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is a feminist artist who is very well known in the feminist movement.  The style she innovated and experimented in is known as Surrealism. Her beliefs were inspired by Marxist thought, and at the heart of it there was a belief in the connectedness of all human experience. The most radical part of her work is the collection of self-portraits, where she paints herself in various adventurous poses. This particular self-portrait is an agonized attempt to be A Mexican Saint Sebastian, Frida displays her wounds and demands that we confront  her miraculous survival. Like many Saint Sebastian paintings, The Broken Column combines the sexual attraction of a well-formed nude with physical mortification to convey the message of spiritual triumph.


SANDY ORGELL, Linen Closet, 1972, 485 × 756’’

Sandy Orgell, Linen Closet, 1972, 485 × 756’’

Sandy Orgel is an artist who became famous for having being part of the Womanhouse project (30 January – 28 February 1972) which was a feminist art installation space organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, co-founders of the California Institute of the Arts Feminist Art Program. This work by her – Linen Closet – presents a mannequin in a woman’s shape, which is carved out and placed in between the shelves of a closet.  This is no ordinary closet, but a linen closet. This depicts a disturbing scenario; a domestic woman’s who is forced to remain between shelves, as a shadowy, insubstantial creature.



GUERILLA GIRLS, The advantages of being a woman artist, 1988,255 x 197’’

Guerrilla Girls, The advantages of being a woman artist, 1988,255 x 197’’

An anonymous group of feminist, female artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism within the art world. The group formed in New York City in 1985 with  a clear mandate of bringing gender inequality within the fine arts to light. Members are known for the  gorilla masks, which they wear to remain anonymous, and which are a vital part of the ideology. These prevent the girls from being recognized by their face, which is a patriarchal instrument, something that is a marker of prejudice and stereotypes.These posters exemplify strategy of using humor to break down discrimination and prejudice within the art world. Adopting a tongue-in-cheek tone, this is q take on prejudices faced by woman artist as late as the late 1980s. Guerilla Girl “Lee Krasner” stated, “The world of High Art, the kind that gets into museums and history books, is run by a very small group of people. Our posters have proved over and over again that these people, no matter how smart or good-intentioned, have been biased against women and artists of color.