Women artists chose to paint images of women and children because from the classical period up to the Renaissance women were barred from studying the human body which would require them to be acquainted with male nudes and corpses (“Women Artists”). They were thus prevented from studying life-drawing. Moreover, nude drawing used males as models. It did not help that prominent art academies especially in Europe were for a long time not receptive to accept women students.
During the Baroque period, women artists started to paint women images because they are were more familiar with the female body. Artists like Elisabetta Sirani and Artemesia Gentileschi depicted women of strength in their works (“Women Artists”).
Women artists also often portrayed children’s images because they are the natural extensions of their nurturing nature. Women play myriad roles in society: as a mother, lover, muse, housewife, to name just a few. Their dynamics with children often reflect in their artistic works. Because of their long relegated place in patriarchal society, they are the ones who can closely depict the varied images of children.
When historians refer to a painter as “master” it is almost automatic that the mental picture would be that of a male artist. It would be a disservice to the women artists both old and current to continue this notion. Historians should rethink their critique on the common subjects of these women artists in the images of women and children because they too have shaped the history of art. Many great women artists financially liberate themselves through their works so that some need not have a husband to support their art. As an example, Elisabeth-Louise Vigee Le Brun was widely known among the aristocracy of Europe mainly because of her talent in portraiture. Women have shown in their works their struggle to find a place for their talents and not just be confined in the home or their perceived role in society.
“Women artists.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. 22 December 2006. 25 December 2006.