- May 31st, 2010
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In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, American women artists did not get a fair deal in the male dominated art world. Only with the exception of Mary Cassat, Cecilia Beaux and Georgia O’Keeffee, most American women artists were ignored. In a recent study conducted, it has been estimated that about forty percent of all the artists in America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were women. Most of these women artists had undergone art training from some of the greatest masters of the time. There was a remarkable change in the American art scenario after 1860. Many artists who were well off went to Europe for instruction and inspiration. America at that time did not have much opportunities for training to women artists and therefore Europe which had more sophisticated system of learning and training, was a better alternative to them. Most of the women artists learned from masters in Paris. They studied and copied the masters at Louvre and also got themselves enrolled for private instructions in the art colonies of Barbizon, Grezsur-Loing, Pont-Aven, Concarneau and Giverny. These gave them opportunity to develop their artistic proficiency, under the guidance of the masters. However, even in Europe, sexual discrimination remained the norm as it was in America. Women were not admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Though they were accepted in the private Academie Julian, the tuition fees were almost double from that of men. Also classes for women were not so frequently conducted in comparison to male students. Discrimination of women artists continued in America till the 1890s. During the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, only about 10 percent of the art work of women artists was put up as exhibits. However this figure gradually increased and in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, 1915, the exhibits of the work of American women artists were more than thirty percent of the total exhibits. Women artists in America gradually took their place in the entire major art exhibition in America and also won a good share of medals and trophies for their artistic output. But in spite of all the credentials and honors, there was still discrimination against women artists as few of their artworks were selected for permanent collection in the American Museums in the country. However, many professional women artists started demanding equal rights in the art schools. The women artists of America were also influenced and inspired by the French Impressionists in the nineteenth century. These artists began to paint with more vibrant spectrum applied in short strokes, paying close attention to the effects of the sunlight and shadow. But these women artists did not imitate their French counterparts, but developed their own individual styles. By the beginning of twentieth century, another revolution was waged in the art world. This transformation occurred with the emergence of “The Eight,” which was dedicated to capturing the conditions of modern urban experience. This realistic attitude toward the images and concerns of everyday life is amply demonstrated in a portrait of the famous actress Lois Fuller by Theresa Bernstein, one of the “Philadelphia Ten,” and in the Red Hat by Elizabeth Clay Fisher. Elizabeth Clay Fisher, a student of Robert Henri, imbued Red Hat, a portrait of a young girl, with the coloration and style of her tutor. American women artists began to assert themselves and also explore the modern aesthetics in art after the 1913 Armory Show. A famous painting in canvas the “Sailboat” by Elizabeth Miller Logingier reveals the precisionists influences made on the women artists of America.