Untold Stories of Pioneering Female Artists

Kara Walker. Photo: Lisa Congdon

As a graduate student at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, the San Francisco-based writer Bridget Quinn was less than enthused to discover how underrepresented female artists had been throughout history. Her new book showcases women whose contributions to the art world have often been overlooked. Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (In That Order), published this month by Chronicle Books, features stories and portraits of female artists from both the past and present. The collection includes painter Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, who endured the 18th-century version of slut-shaming from art critics, as well as Kara Walker, who more recently created a groundbreaking sphinx made of sugar.

“Many of the women in Broad Strokes should be more widely known — there’s a myriad of reasons why they’re not,” Quinn told the Cut. “The list of reasons is long, but all come back to the irrefutable fact of sexism. The playing field was separate, unequal. What most of these women undertook in order to make art at all is staggering.” She explained that female artists shown in the book faced many challenges their male colleagues often did not, like having their work misattributed to men. Their work and legacies often disappeared.

Illustrator Lisa Congdon drew colorful portraits of each woman to appear alongside Quinn’s deeply researched profiles. “So many of my personal heroines are in the book,” Congdon told the Cut. “It’s important to celebrate women, period. In particular, female artists of color and LGBTQ artists who have been even more hidden from the celebration and appreciation and academics around art. It dismantles the notion that women are inferior intellectually or creatively.”

Click ahead to learn more about these groundbreaking artists, including Judith Leyster, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Lee Krasner, and Alice Neel.

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order)

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Untold Stories of Pioneering Female Artists