The Rise of Women Artists – Walker Art Gallery

The sense of sight Annie Louisa Swynnerton
'The sense of sight' Annie Louisa Swynnerton

The Rise of Women Artists
Walker Art Gallery
23 October 2009 – 14 March 2010
Tracking the historical changes influencing women artists, this exhibition explores the similarities and differences between the status and careers of women working in different areas within the fine and decorative arts fields as reflected in the collections of the Walker Art Gallery.

The Walker is rightly proud that they have so many artworks by women artists in their collection and this exhibition is fascinating as it shows so many different media in chronological order from the 17th century to today. It plots the history and development of women artists and their struggle to be allowed to study and work alongside male artists.

women-artists-074Good to see a few local artists in there too, including Emma Rodgers and Rabindra Singh.

The Walker Art Gallery was ahead of its time in collecting works by women artists, a fact that will be reflected in the scope and diversity of this superb exhibition.

The Rise of Women Artists is displayed chronologically in nine sections, featuring paintings, works on paper, textiles, ceramics and sculpture.

The exhibition traces the historical changes affecting women, looking at their status and careers as they moved to assert themselves as artists in their own right.

It also poses questions to visitors:
Does the gender of an artist matter – and should artists be labelled?
Are so-called decorative arts – such as needlework and ceramics – any less significant as works of art than paintings?

Panel for fire screen 1920 by Edith Waterworth (a student at Liverpool School of Art)
Panel for fire screen 1920 by Edith Waterworth (a student at Liverpool School of Art)

Celebrating some of the key pioneers of women’s art, the exhibition features early works from artists including 16th and 17th century Italian painters Lavinia Fontana and Elisabetta Sirani, and renowned 18th century French painter Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun.

Paintings from the gallery’s vast 19th century permanent collection are displayed with Louisa Starr’s Sintram, Henrietta Ward’s George III and his family at Windsor and Elaine by Sophie Anderson, alongside Pre-Raphaelite Emma Sandys.

Merseyside connections are also explored
, with Fantine – based on a character from the Victor Hugo novel Les Miserables – by Margaret Hall, the daughter of a Mayor of Liverpool, and early 20th century ceramics designed at the Birkenhead Della Robbia Pottery.

Contemporary international artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Paula Rego, alongside acclaimed local artists Rabindra Singh and Emma Rodgers, complete the journey through the exhibition.

I asked the curator of British Art, Laura MacCulloch to tell us more about the exhibition. You can hear what she had to say on our defnetmedia podcast website

Tea Set by Susie Cooper 1932


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