Jordan Casteel, Miles and Jojo, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.
Last February, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s European Paintings department featured the first-ever solo exhibit of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, an 18th-century French master who is often overlooked in favor of her male contemporaries. This exhibit was the first solo show for a female painter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s European Paintings department in over 40 years.
Today, many women are exploring figurative painting, particularly the way that people respond to the topics of this century, such as gender, race, war and violence, social media, personal privacy, and love. Building on the progress of female masters from previous centuries, such as Alice Neel, Leonora Carrington, Faith Ringgold, Nicole Eisenman and Mickalene Thomas, these contemporary female artists are exploring how the big political questions of today influence our perception of what it means to be a human.
[Left: Amy Sherald, Girl in Purple Dress, 2016; Right: Amy Sherald, Miss Everything (Unsurpressed Deliverance), 2014. Images courtesy of the artist and moniquemeloche, Chicago.]
20 female artists in particular are lauded for their unique and perceptive portrayal of their subjects: Jordan Casteel of Colorado, Sanam Khatibi of Iran, Becky Kolsrud of Los Angeles, California, Nina Chanel Abney of Chicago, Illinois, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum of Botswana, Genieve Figgis of Ireland, Tschabalala Self of New York, Alejandra Hernández of Columbia, Jesse Mockrin of Los Angeles, California, Grace Weaver of Vermont, Hayv Kahraman of Iraq, Gina Beavers of Athens, Greece, Louisa Gagliardi of Switzerland, Firelei Báez of New York, Amy Sherald of Maryland, Aliza Nisenbaum of Mexico City, Mexico, Mira Dancy of the UK, Anna Bjerger of Sweden, Heidi Hahn of Los Angeles, and Emily Mae Smith of Austin, Texas.
Each of these talented women has created a personal style and method of portraying her subjects, and their pieces are inspiring in the contemporary art world, as well as promising for the future.