FEMALE ARTISTS THAT DO NOT APPEAR IN HISTORY BOOKS

Sofonisba Anguissola, “Bernardino Campi painting Sofonisba Anguissola”, circa 1559.

 

 

 

In the attempt to bring to light the female figures that have stood out throughout the history of art certain names spring up in a recurrent manner, such as Sofonisba Anguissola, a Renaissance painter who achieved a great reputation in life. This example, however, is that of a privileged artist who could live from art without hiding her identity or hiding under a masculine pseudonym. History has been very different for many others, forced to remain anonymous because of imposing patterns of what is socially admissible or eclipsed by the figure of a man who knew how to make better use of others talent. Sofonisba was able to ironise on this question and paint herself while being portrayed by her teacher, whom she overpassed in pictorial technique. This work deals with the eternal theme that women could only serve to pose and be muses of inspiration.

 

 

 

Cave of the hands, Santa Cruz, Argentina.

 

 

 

Recently several studies have been developed defending the theory that it is possible to distinguish the female footprint in cave paintings. The Center National de la Recherche Scientifique (France) has shown that more than half of the silhouettes correspond to female figures. Undoubtedly, behind the authorship of these works, there are groups of women. Analysing the size of the hands drawn on the walls, a more recent study by Dean Snow, from the University of Pennsylvania, in 2012, shows that most of the paintings were done by women since 75% of the hands analysed are attributable to them.

 

 

 

Page of Beato de Girona.

 

 

 

Another relevant figure is that of Ende, a 10th-century miniaturist who left her signature on the Beatus of Girona, a codex illuminated with commentaries on the apocalypse. In Medieval times the monasteries were mixed, although monks and nuns maintained a life in separate groups. This was also the case of the scriptorium of the monastery of San Salvador de Tábara (Zamora), where the book was concluded on July 6th, 975. In one of the pages, we find the signature of Emeterio, priest of the monastery and possible copyist of the manuscript, along with that of Ende, who declares herself painter and servant of God, "Ende pintrix et dei aiutrix frater emeterius et presbiter". This is the first woman artist in the history of Spain and one of the first whom we have news of across Europe.

 

 

Gerda Taro (left) | Image of a militiawoman in the Spanish Civil War by Gerda Taro (right).

 

 

 

Only a few know that behind Robert Capa, an internationally renowned name for his war photo report, there was a couple of photographers composed by the Hungarian Endre Ern? Friedmann and Gerda Taro. It is frankly difficult to distinguish which photographs belong to each of them. They worked in perfect harmony and were the first war reporters with shocking images that will remain for posterity. However, the fact of having chosen the masculine name of Robert Capa (Robert, by the actor Robert Taylor, and Capa, inspired by the filmmaker Frank Capra) led the whole world to identify Ern? with the author of these snapshots. Gerda Taro was the first female photojournalist of war, and finally died when she was 27 in the first line of combat, at the Battle of Brunete in 1937, while working to cover the Spanish Civil War for the French press. Because she always risked. She liked to get involved in the battle, to express the harshness and misery of the conflict.

 

 

 

Fumiko Neguishi.

 

 

 

Another situation is what the artists Fumiko Neguishi or Margaret Keane experienced. In both cases, these painters worked for others, until a moment when they refused to remain anonymous and to give up their talent for the fame of others. Fumiko Neguishi has recently sued the artist Antonio de Felipe for having fired her unjustifiably after working without a contract for him for 13 years, painting in the mornings many of the works that De Felipe signed afterwards.

 

 

 

Margaret and Walter Keane in their studio.

 

 

 

There are many cases in which behind the success attributed to a single person there is actually a work of two, a creation in a symbiosis that prevents defining the limits of authorship that corresponds to each of them, as with Alma Reville and Hitchcock, Camille Claudel and Rodin, or Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The case of Margaret Keane and her husband Walter could fit a priori in this scheme. However, the situation was very different. Margaret painted for her husband Walter, and apparently, both had agreed to present the works under the signature of Walter to make a way in the market, always more receptive to the male artists. Over the years and the incredible success of Margaret’s works without ever having a recognition of the real authorship, the relationship suffered and Margaret ended up denouncing Walter and claiming a compensation for her work, although in the process Walter denied the authorship of his wife. The funny thing is that this trial incorporated an expert evidence in which both were asked to paint live a piece in the courtroom. Walter was unable to do it. Margaret finished it in 53 minutes. It was a decisive evidence.

 

Buying the first work of art always instils respect. A difficult feeling to define that mixes vertigo with adrenaline. But over uncertainty and caution, a pleasurable sense of connection, understanding, and desire prevails. That work that, once seen, stays in the mind, reappears in the memory several times a day and seems to tell you that it is willing to be part of your home, is the perfect candidate to make the decision.

In the first steps, many collectors do point out that one does not start from an established plan, but rather that one acquires pieces based on taste and the connection one feels with them until, after time, they realise that the volume of works that accumulates can be labelled as a "collection". For example, this is how Alicia Aza explains it:

“I was not aware that I was collecting until many years later when a third party named me as a collector and talked about my collection. In 2005, I became aware of what collecting means and decided to articulate a collection with an identity of criteria and formats”.

Marcos Martín Blanco, co-founder, with his wife Elena Rueda, of the MER Collection, shares this same opinion:

“Collecting has been a passion, driven by a visceral state that encourages you to do so. The collection, in terms of acquisitions, has not been particularly complicated because, let's face it: it is easy to buy because they are all beautiful things and you have some clear idea of where you want to go, but at first those preferences were not so clear. It is with the time that a criterion is being formed”.

It is not always this way, of course, but for the buyer who starts out on this path, the personal connection that entails the first piece is essential. There it is the germ of a lasting relationship that is not limited to a simple aesthetic question but is an open window to knowledge, to exploration, to a world that is often unknown to us and awakens our fascination. The seed of that connection is purely sentimental, and it is precisely this impulse that determines the first acquisitions. The first piece is never forgotten.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Ana Maqueda

Exceeding the usual recommendations made by advisers and agents, rare is the occasion when the art lover decides to buy by pure investment. These paths usually open later, when the volume of pieces is large enough. In addition, there are those who are a bit against this classic concept of the traditional collector, approached from an eccentric, elitist and little accessible vision. On the contrary, art buyers are, above all, art lovers, sentient beings and permeable to creative stimulus who, at a given moment, decide to deepen the relationship they already have with art to take a piece home.

It is not that hard to overcome that small psychological barrier that turns the visitor into a buyer if one approaches the matter from a more personal and intimate perspective than from social consideration. Small-format works, graphic work or serial photography are of great help for this, whose price range, generally more affordable, allows a closer comparison to the daily basis expenses. In this way, the purchase of art falls within the range of feasible activities and becomes something close and possible.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Marc Cisneros

At that moment, a different relationship with art begins, based on pure experience and coexistence with the acquired piece. Perhaps it can be seen as an act of daring, but on many occasions, it is more a matter of necessity and transformation. Collectors also agree that the acquisition of an artwork is an exercise on personal analysis and opening up to a new field of knowledge that was previously alien to us. Alicia Aza explains that the reason she acquired her first piece of video art, by Sergio Prego, is because she did not understand it and because she saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to self-improve. This open window to knowledge creates new connections and bonds with creators, as one of the most fascinating parts of the process. Candela Álvarez Soldevilla explains that

"I think the most interesting thing in the art world is talking to artists. They are people with a special sensitivity to listen and understand.”

And Alicia Aza also says:

"I can share the satisfaction of being able to count on many artists in my circle of close friends today, and that is a long way to go."

Thus, with works that seem acceptable within the horizon of expenses that each one considers affordable, it is easy to find a piece that catches us. Since then, our home also evolves into a space in which art has a permanent place and presence, and there is no doubt that this transforms us inside.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Henar Herguera

Jaime Sordo, owner of Los Bragales collection and founder of the 9915 Contemporary Art Collectors Association, has always defined his relationship with art as a true passion and a vital necessity. For buyers who start on this path, he has the following recommendation:

“It is an essential condition that they feel the need to live with their passion to enjoy the works. Another very important aspect is that before making decisions for purchases, they are informed, so it is necessary to read specialised newspapers and books, visit exhibitions and museums and a lot of contact with galleries, which is an important and very specific source of information of the artists they represent. Finally, the presence in national and international art fairs. All this generates information and training.”

Indeed, fairs have become a good place for discovery because they condense a wide offer and allow diverse and global contact in a concentrated way. For this reason, many new generation buyers start in the context of an event such as Art Madrid, whose closeness and quality constitute a unique opportunity to meet, soak up and feed the passion for art.

(*) quotes taken from various interviews published in public media between 2013 and 2019.