When Linda Nochlin wrote an essay on “Why have there been no great women Artist” in 1971, the understanding of feminism on art written by women has greatly changed. This has been characterized by new findings and research in this discipline whereby, some research studies, articles, books, essays and web contents reveal that customary and modern innovations for evaluating impacts of gender difference have shaped developments in visual art. Some recent feminist scholars have continued the use of traditional biographic methods to help them appreciate women artists who were not appreciated yet they contributed significantly to the advancement of visual art. They identify and establish evidence of the contributions of participants including women of the several types of art of different categories. Rediscovering women efforts basing on historical evidence provide a firm foundation upon which feminist art history is built.
In this essay, I am going to focus on Lavinia Fontana, a female artist of 1500s. She was born and raised in Bologna. Her father, Prospero Fontana was a famous painter of his time who transpired her to the field of art. It was therefore, this family business and practice that enabled her embrace art. Among her first work was the painting of a “Monkey Child” when she was twenty three years of age. Most of her work are not available though some are kept in the museums like “The painting of Christ with symbols of Passion” which is kept in El Paso Museum of Art.
She painted several genres after this painting. In the town of Bologna where she was born and raised, she was famous for her work in painting upper class homes. Her career in painting for commercial purposes started when she did a painting on copper which appealed to many dignitaries including the pope and diplomats who used them as gifts. She went further and made paintings of nude males and females and religious paintings. She relocated to Rome together with her family in 1603 when she was invited by the Pope as a result of her excellent work in painting. She continued to excel in Rome with her paintings
Despite the fact that Fontana excelled in her paintings, women artists encountered several setbacks in her time. Female artist were undermined and their names deleted from historical books. In most cases, female artists were wives or daughters of popular artists while they worked in their shops which are directly related to Fontana’s story. Another discrimination that women encountered is while on training, they were not allowed to participate in training with the male artists. For instance, women were not allowed to draw nude figure of human body which was a mandatory training for male artists.
Artists who were not noble women were discriminated. Therefore, earlier women artist like Fontana showed themselves as all rounded in education by actively participating in painting, producing scholarly articles and music. As people began recognizing their work, they began shifting attention from craftwork to art. Prospective candidates of art were supposed to have general knowledge in mathematics, art and human body. Women in this era accessed training in art courses though they were not allowed to draw nude pictures of men.
This is the cause of the difference between male and female artist of this period. Drawing of nude pictures was considered prestigious hence, they were denied this opportunity. Majority of female artists were either nuns or daughters of artist while male artists easily got training opportunities for art. This was due to the fact they could easily learn skills of art from workshops of their parents examples include Fontana, Caterina, Antonia and Ragnoni.