Category: Art History

Migrant Mother, 1936, Dorothea Lange. Photograph

This iconic image is just one of six taken by Dorothea Lange in March of 1936 while she was working as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). During this time she was trying, as an artist, to show the effects of the depression and humanize the situation. Lange made field notes accounting for seven children and stating that they had just sold their tires to buy food. Lange did not ask the woman’s name or history, just her age. Florence Owens Thompson, 32 at the time, was later identified as the “Migrant Mother” in 1978 and went on to say that Lange had gotten the information wrong and that they couldn’t have sold their tires for food since they did not have any tires to sell. It was also claimed that Lange had promised never to allow the photographs to be published. 

Beatrice Cenci, 1856

Created by Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908) in 1856 this magnificent sculpture depicts a fallen woman named Beatrice Cenci.  We can see that she is distraught but peaceful as she loosely holds onto a rosary with one hand while supporting her head with the other. While the craftsmanship in this piece is impeccable, the story behind its creation is a heroic one that takes place in the Middle Ages. Beatrice Cenci was executed after murdering her father who had been physically abusing her brother, mother, and herself. While the town knew of the abuse and terror this family had been through and that this was clearly a case of self defense, the papal authority (doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church) chose to take advantage of the situation in order to seize the Cenci’s property. In this amazing sculpture by Hosmer we can see that this woman is at peace with her decision and has accepted that she had to protect her family from her father. The ability to show tranquillity with such a tragic story attached is a...

Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat, 1782

Louise Élisabeth Vigée le Brun (1755-1842) has been recognized as the most important female painter of the 18th century. While her style has been considered Rococo with an interest in neoclassical painting (art inspired by classical Greek or Roman artwork). Being the daughter of a portraitist painter it is no shock that she would pursue a similar trade. By the time she was in her teens she was painting portraits professionally only to have her studio seized for practicing without a license. She then applied to Académie de Saint Luc where not only was her work exhibited but she became a member of the Académie.


Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1630’s

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) was an Italian Baroque (a period of artistic style that uses exaggerated motion which began around 1600 in Rome, Italy) painter. She was born in Rome on July 8th, 1593 of the painter Orazio Gentileschi. She showed much more promise in the arts than her younger brothers, in this time women artists were not easily accepted by many patrons or fellow artists. She was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing) in Florence. After being raped by her painting instructor and pressing charges against the man her reputation became more about that than her paintings. After the trail (where the man was found guilty) Artemisias paintings did tend to have strong independent women portrayed. 

As Artemisia grew older her work became more “feminine” and graceful. She was...

An Elizabethan Maundy, miniature, 1560

Levina Teerlinc (1510-1576) was a Flemish miniaturist who also served as a painter to the English court of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. She was the daughter of the renowned illuminator of the Ghent-Bruges school, Simon Bening. It is thought that she she worked in her father's workshop  being getting married. Once married she moved with her husband to England. She became the royal painter to Henry VIII, after his previous royal painter, Hans Holbein the Younger, had died.

Although she did create portraits for royals she became most well known for her work with miniatures. It is thought that she might have trained Nicholas Hilliard in the methods of miniature portraiture. He would go on to be the first supreme miniature portraitist of the era. She was also known for presenting paintings as gifts including an image of the Trinity for Mary I in 1553.