NaNoWriMo Day 21: My Favourite Painters

Nanowrimo is starting to suck all energy out of me. Many people have asked me how I find the time to write. It’s difficult and I’m struggling a bit at the moment. However, I’m eager to keep going. Juggling all my other interests, uni and work. Today, let’s talk about something very dear to my heart – ART. Particularly my favourite artists. I will present you my ten favourite men and women artists.

In school, I only knew about Frida Kahlo as a female artist. We never talked about women also creating amazing paintings! Never! I never questioned it either. Why are our art books full of men? Why do we never discuss the great efforts modern female artists make to change this system?

The Guerrilla Girls (http://www.guerrillagirls.com/#open) asked the question: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. museums? Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.”

I especially love this poster they made: The Advantages of being a woman artist. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/work/P/P78/P78796_10.jpg

“Working without the pressure of success.
Not having to be in shows with men.
Having an escape from the art world in your 4 free-lance jobs.
Knowing your career might pick up after you’re eighty.
Being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled feminine.
Not being stuck in a tenured teaching position.
Being your ideas live on in the work of others.
Having the opportunity to choose between career and motherhood.
Not having to choke on those big cigars or paint in Italian suits.
Having more time to work after your mate dumps you for someone younger.
Being included in revised versions of art history.
Not having to undergo the embarrassment of being called a genius.
Getting your picture in the art magazines wearing a gorilla suit.”

Here is an amazing video by Sarah Urist Green about The Fierce Women of Art: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHair5dvG0s If you are interested in art, this is the perfect channel for you. Thoughtful, diverse and intelligent.

Women are underrepresented in museums, in art history. Think of all the art periods: Renaissance? Da Vinci, Tizian. Baroque? Rembrandt. Rubens. Romanticism? Friedrich, Turner. Impressionism? Degas, Monet, Renoir. The list goes on and one. Could you name even one female painter in each of these periods? I couldn’t either.

It’s difficult for female artists to reach the art galleries of this world. The poster explains it perfectly. There are, however, some female artists recognised by history.

1. Frida Kahlo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frida_Kahlo

My favourite one. A beautiful, strong woman who survived through her art. She made a lot of self-portraits. The colour contrasts are stunning. What strikes me most about her portraits is that she creates that intensive stare. That determined look that has the ability to see deep into you. Her art can be characterised as surrealistic, although she said that she doesn’t paint dreams, she paints her own reality.

2 . Kara Walker

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kara_Walker

This lady is astonishing. She creates huge black paper silhouettes and depicts aspects of American history like slavery. She hasn’t narrowed her materials to just paper, though. She works with animations and projections and also makes paintings and sketches. Her figures are so vivid, so full of life. Even if they are just cut-out, she has found a way to make them express feelings and emotions. They are beautifully crafted and are critical in the same moment. In her own words: “I wanted to make work where the viewer wouldn’t walk away, he’d get pulled into history, into fiction, into something totally demeaning and possibly very beautiful.”

3. Amrita Sher-Gil

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amrita_Sher-Gil#/media/File:Amrita_Sher-Gil_Group_of_Three_Girls.jpg

She was an indian-hungarian painter of the first half of the 20th century. Her paintings tell the stories of women and girls in India. Her colour choices are wonderful and she works a lot with light. The relations between the people in the paintings seem so intimate, so caring and loving. She has the ability to depict faces and catch their expressions without being that realistic. She knows how to reduce forms to a minimum.

4. Georgia O’Keeffe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_O%27Keeffe#/media/File:Blue-green.jpg

Her pictures have a certain harmony to them. Flowers carefully studied with shadow and light, so plastic that you want to touch them. Skulls with antlers that remind me of the famous surrealists. Vibrant colours and calm landscape scenes. Hills like cloth discarded somewhere. The variety of her work is amazing.

5. Artemisia Gentileschi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_Gentileschi#/media/File:Self-portrait_as_the_Allegory_of_Painting_(La_Pittura)_-_Artemisia_Gentileschi.jpg

The only rather famous female painter of the baroque period. She was a master of her craft and learned from an artist you are more likely to know. Caravaggio. She painted dramatic scenes, brought painting light to perfection. If you see her pictures, you might think it was done by one of the great male painters of that time. Women are just as good, however, history is not very kind to them. Their works were attributed to men, they were not allowed to paint – you name it. This is why it is so incredibly important that we know about the female artists who were pioneers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_Gentileschi

Never in my entire school life, did we cover the topic of female artists. We never went to a gallery were female artists were shown. Picasso, Caspar David Friedrich, Monet… not one woman. Let me show you my favourite male artists now:

1. Rene Magritte

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Magritte#/media/File:Magritte,_Rene_1898-1967_Signature.jpg

I have a special place in my heart for surrealists. I always tried to paint like them but failed. Magritte – what can I say about him. His ideas to trick our eyes are so intelligent, so well thought. Incredibly minimalistic sometimes, he always reveals new strategies to make us think, make us laugh, make us question. Looking at his paintings always makes me happy somehow. I love the colours and the out-of-world-ness about them. The strangeness. I could never decide on a favourite. Every time a new door is opened, with every new painting a new border passed. A line of what is possible and what isn’t crossed.

2. Salvador Dalí

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Persistence_of_Memory

My friend and fellow artist Hannah and I went to an exhibition of Dalí recently. There were a lot of sketches and series of drawings by him. Sculptures, prints, films. His sculptures have drawers in them! How amazing is that? We were astonished, in awe of his ability to draw. He really did know how to draw. “He’s a little weird, isn’t he?” was our most common sentence as we walked through the rooms. He was a great artist. I admire his forms and colours, his creating of entirely different worlds. He made a film together with Walt Disney and it is amazing to recognise the elements that they used in their art. You can never fully get what Dalí wanted to say with his paintings. You can never get to the ground. But you can admire his technique. One of my favourite paintings are “The Elephants”. His work “Muchacha en la ventana” reminds me a bit of Picasso’s “Nature morte devant une fenetre a Saint-Raphael”, which is my favourite one of Picasso. It is so tiny in real life! I was fortunate enough to see it, though. I fell in love with it. Windows to the sea, a re-occurring motive in art. Dalí painted landscapes and portraits and combined elements of seemingly every period of art, there is always more to discover. You might find him a little odd but you cannot deny that this man was a genius.

3. Lyonel Feininger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyonel_Feininger

An entire semester in our art class was dedicated to this painter. I love his work so much- just simple forms put together, carefully placed light. The composition is key. His paintings look like many differently coloured foils are put on top of each other. Illuminated with a single light source. Little broken glass pieces glued together to form masterpieces. I had the wonderful opportunity to see one of his works in a gallery in Lübeck. I didn’t want to leave. The museum was closing already and I wanted to stay, look at this painting. Absorb everything. His brush strokes, the hues he used, the clear lines. He mainly uses earth tones which makes his paintings look so natural, as if they just were photographs taken through a shattered window.

4. August Macke

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Macke#/media/File:August_Macke_004.jpg

Before I even started to draw, I learned how to use watercolours. My grandfather taught me. That’s why watercolour artists are very dear to me. August Macke made expressionistic art as well. His work is colourful, full of life. It seems sometimes like the naive work of a child. A beautiful world, one saturated with colours. My favourite paintings of him are those he made in Tunisia. Bright, white shapes and harmonising, warm colours. Scenes so simplistic and yet beautiful. He fell in World War I, only 27 years old. Left behind only his work. Which had a great influence on my artistic development. I always go back to him for inspiration.

5. Vincent van Gogh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh#/media/File:Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Wheatfield_with_crows_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

A few years ago I was in Amsterdam and I got the chance to see van Gogh’s work in real life. I don’t know what it is about paintings but they always look so small when you see them hanging on the wall. My favourite painting is his last one. The beautiful ending for a tragic life. He sold only one painting in his entire life-time. The world was not ready. His love for colour, his thick, pasty application of it onto the canvas – they give his work so much life. He learned to get away from the dark tones that were used before. From the calm scenes with subtle light. He wanted his paintings to shine. To be alive. He was an eccentric, he was a little strange. He ate yellow paint because he thought it would make him happy. To this point you should know that I love artists with heartbreaking stories. Their art is the purest. The most honest.

Those are a few of my favourite artists. I am completely aware that they are very Europe and North America centred. My mind is so narrow, concerning art. I always try to search for new painters whose work inspires me. Get’s me to sit in front of a canvas again, swinging the brush.

I would love to see more great painters from all over the world. Please tell me who your favourite painters are. Did you have the same problem with naming female painters in art history? What do you think we could change to get more diversity in our museums? In our art classrooms? I’m looking forward to your suggestions!

Current Word Count: 35157

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