Women in the Arts Over Time

The tagline of this year’s International Women’s Day was #choosetochallenge. The tag encourages people to tackle gender-based inequality on a personal and collective level. Equally, the tag draws attention to the numerous women throughout history, and in recent times, who have dared to take up space and have helped steer change.

Many women have enriched the arts over the years, with these being just a few:

  1. Artemisia Gentileschi
Credit: Sotheby’s

Artemisia Gentileschi, who worked largely in the early 17th century, was a highly successful Italian Baroque painter. Despite being barred from learning life drawing and other painterly techniques the conventional way, Artemisia’s skill was extraordinary and she became revered across Italy. Artemisia later became the first ever woman admitted to the Academy of the Arts in Florence and enjoyed significant patronage – both internationally and from powerful magnates such as the Medicis.

2. Frida Kahlo

Credit: Tatler

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter active in the early 20th century. Kahlo was a queer, disabled woman and her portraits reflect her unflinching explorations of life and self identity. Kahlo’s portraits also explore a number of other crucial themes such as a Mexican national identity, class, and post-colonialism. Kahlo reached significant recognition within her own lifetime, and has long since been celebrated for her bold style and powerful explorations of complex contemporary subjects.

3. Munroe Bergdorf

Credit: The Guardian

Munroe Bergdorf is a British model and activist. Bergdorf became the first transgender model in the UK for L’Oreal, but was dropped for stating that white people are complicit in many aspects of racism; “”most of y’all don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour.” Bergdorf vehemently maintained her stance despite the weight of the tabloids against her and the loss of her job, and was quick to call out the double standards of L’Oreal’s message of solidarity during the BLM protests last year. Bergdorf still enjoys a number of other successful modelling contracts and is an activist and champion for a number of causes such as racism, trans rights, and intersectional feminism. Her instagram page is well worth a follow!

4. Reni Eddo Lodge

Credit: The Guardian

Reni Eddo Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” (2017) rose to number one on the UK book charts last year, making Eddo Lodge the first black British woman to top the UK book charts overall. Eddo Lodge described this achievement as “a horrible indictment of the publishing industry”, pointing out “the fact that it’s 2020 and I’m the first”, and also paid homage to a number of other black british authors. Eddo Lodge’s statements and book vitally underline how institutional and systemic racism in the UK is perpetuated and exists. Eddo Lodge continues her career as an activist and journalist and, again, is well worth following.

5. Sally Rooney

Credit: The Times

Sally Rooney is an Irish author who has achieved prominence for her novels “Conversations with Friends”, and “Normal People”. “Normal People” in particular, with THAT TV adaptation last year, has proved to resonate with a great number of people for its accessible, yet important subject matter. Rooney’s writing covers questions such as class, assault, sexual identity, mental health and more – and this is done in such an intelligent and sensitive manner that Rooney has proven herself to be a great writer with universal appeal.

6. Megan Thee Stallion

Credit: New York Times

Megan Thee Stallion has risen to great acclaim and popularity as a rapper over the last year, culminating in her number one singles “Savage”, and “W.A.P” with Cardi B. Megan’s music explores topics such as sexuality, identity, race and self-expression. After being shot in both feet last year, Megan came back against her attacker through her song “Shots Fired” and wrote a piece for the New York Times addressing both the incident and the prejudice black women in the US face (particularly in light of the election.)

7. Amanda Gorman

Credit: The Guardian

Amanda Gorman became famous overnight after Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, for which she, aged 23, was the inaugural poet. Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb”, drew attention to a number of systemic issues, such as racism, that the US must grapple with and overcome. The poem was also, overwhelmingly, a message of unity and solidarity following Trump’s tumultuous term as president. Gorman’s poetry has since been bought by major publishing houses, with a collection being tipped for release soon.

Main image credit: Family App