Women artists struggle to be seen

Tania Sheko
Jan 27, 2019 · 2 min read
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German painter Helene Funke’s 1913 work Träume (Dreams) Johannes Stoll, © Belvedere, Vienna

Have you ever wondered about the invisibility of women in the arts? Even now, as I attend orchestral performances, I rarely see women conducting. I find that surprising in these times when women have surely been battling equal representation for many decades.

In The Art Newspaper article online: “More to Viennese Modernism than Klimt and Schiele: new show on forgotten female artists” (23/1/2019), Catherine Hickley talks about ‘female artists working in Vienna at the turn of the century who entered a predominantly male profession and helped to shape Viennese Modernism.’ The Belvedere is exhibiting 50 female artists, most of whom have now become obscure.

They achieved a level of emancipation which has been completely forgotten,” says the show’s curator Sabine Fellner. “They were not allowed to study at the academy, so some went abroad to study, and they organised themselves in clubs to exhibit […] sometimes in the best galleries.

After 1945, these female artists disappeared from public view. Post-war art historians were much more interested in their more famous male counterparts. Many of the women had emigrated during the Nazi period. Some were Jewish, and had fled or been deported.

It was not until the publication of Sabine Plakolm-Forsthuber’s book in 1994, Women Artists in Vienna 1897–1938, that interest revived. Fellner says another important milestone was Julie Johnson’s 2012 book, The Memory Factory: the Forgotten Women Artists of Vienna 1900.

How can it be that today hardly anyone who knows who these women artists were, even though they contributed significantly to Viennese Modernism and artistic trends that manifested after the First World War?

Art viewpoints

Year 10 students’ exploration of Art

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