10 inspirational female artists

From the new to the established, discover 10 female artists who will inspire you.

@thegreatwomenartists is easily one of Instagram’s most inspiring art accounts. Acting as a digital gallery where work by some of the greatest female artists is showcased, from the new and esoteric to the widely-known and established, it’s an Insta account that will leave you feeling enriched and without the regret of mindless hours spent scrolling that we’re all guilty of succumbing to. Here Katy Hessel, the brains behind the account, shares with us her ten most inspirational female artists.

1

Artemisia Gentileschi

Italian-Baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, was a widely renowned contemporary of Caravaggio at a time when female artists were unheard of. Her dramatic and brutal paintings are some of the most progressive portrayals of Biblical and Classical scenes ever painted.

A self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi, 1630s, and “Judith Slaying Holofernes”, 1614–20, images via Wikipedia
A self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi, 1630s, and “Judith Slaying Holofernes”, 1614–20, images via Wikipedia
2

Jeanne-Claude (from Christo and Jeanne Claude)

Jeanne-Claude, who is survived by her art-partner and husband Christo, mummified landscapes using millions of square ft worth of brightly colored fabric that stretched over Cathedrals, coastlines and even archipelagoes.

Jeanne Claude and Christo, “Surrounded Islands”, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83 Christo and Jeanne-Claude courtesy of Christo 1983
Jeanne Claude and Christo, “Surrounded Islands”, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83 Christo and Jeanne-Claude courtesy of Christo 1983
3

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, the collage-extraordinaire, paints portraits of figures in domesticated spaces that reflect sensual and voyeuristic moments in a contemporary and transcultural society. Look closer at the multi-layered figures and her work becomes an amalgamation of intimate photographs from her childhood in Nigeria.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “And We Begin to Let Go”, 2013 © Njideka Akunyili 2016
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “And We Begin to Let Go”, 2013 © Njideka Akunyili 2016
4

Marina Abramovic

Universally referred to as the ‘Grandmother of Performing Art’, Marina Abramovic continues to make headlines by creating art that challenges the body both physically and psychologically. Her intense and ritualistic performances have included Abramovic setting herself on fire, as well as reducing her fans to tears.

Marina Abramovic, “Rhythm 5”, 1974, © 2016 Marina Abramović, courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery/(ARS), New York
Marina Abramovic, “Rhythm 5”, 1974, © 2016 Marina Abramović, courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery/(ARS), New York
5

 Agnes Denes

Agnes Denes founded political and ecological art by constructing "Wheatfield: A Confrontation" - her project of Summer '82 which saw her plant and harvest two acres of wheat between the extremely urban and densely populated spaces of the Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center. The work was an immensely powerful venture that raised questions about the mismanagement of land and sustainability. 

Agnes Denes, “Wheatfield with Agnes Denes standing in the field”, Wheatfield – A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan © Agnes Denes 2016
Agnes Denes, “Wheatfield with Agnes Denes standing in the field”, Wheatfield – A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan © Agnes Denes 2016
6

 Alice Neel

Alice Neel’s psychological portraits broke boundaries by emasculating her male protagonists and exposing her sitters’ scars. Her expressively painted portraits documented a history of people throughout the twentieth century like no other. 

Alice Neel, The Fugs, 1966, courtesy of James Cohan Gallery/ Artsy
Alice Neel, The Fugs, 1966, courtesy of James Cohan Gallery/ Artsy
7

 Rachel Whiteread

The first ever woman to win the Turner Prize and Young British Artists, Rachel Whiteread’s signature sculptures are often large concrete casts of buildings, rooms, stairs or chairs that evoke the space’s previous human interaction.

Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Stairs), 2001 copyright Rachel Whiteread
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Stairs), 2001 copyright Rachel Whiteread
8

 Yayoi Kusama

Despite being well into her nineties, Yayoi Kusama’s dazzlingly dotty mirror rooms and hallucinatory paintings of infinity nets continue to send art-goers crazy, teleporting them into surreal spaces.  

Installation view, Yayoi Kusama in Narcissus Garden at the Venice Biennial, Italy, 1966 © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York
Installation view, Yayoi Kusama in Narcissus Garden at the Venice Biennial, Italy, 1966 © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York
9

Kara Walker

African-American artist Kara Walker is best known for her powerful and political cut outs that invoke themes of race and identity, gender and sexuality. Often exploring ‘slavery’ as a subject, Walker is best known for filling Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Factory with a large Sphinx-like woman that responded to the building and its history. 

Kara Walker, “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby”, courtesy of CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times
Kara Walker, “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby”, courtesy of CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times
10

Cui Xiuwen

Cui Xiuwen’s latest body of experimental photography addresses issues of womanhood in modern day China, such as anxiety, vulnerability and compassion. Through her voyeuristic dreamscapes, Xiuwen is shaking up contemporary art for women in China, by giving rise to political issues. 

Cui Xiuwen, ‘Angel no.3, 2006, photograph, image courtesy of the artist
Cui Xiuwen, ‘Angel no.3, 2006, photograph, image courtesy of the artist

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