This past June, a painting by the nineteenth century artist Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) broke records during Freeman’s “American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists” auction [fig. 1]. The painting, named Ethel Page as Undine, sold for a record $454,000 to a New England institution and set the new world auction record for the artist. According to Freeman’s, this “impressive result reflects the current strong market interest in female artists, and for Beaux herself, who has been hitherto underappreciated.” Originally painted on Chestnut Street in 1885, the painting also demonstrates the enduring popularity of American paintings from the nineteenth century.
March of 2019 saw the conclusion of a landmark exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of History called “Something Revealed: California Women Artists Emerge, 1860-1960.” Featuring over 200 artworks and curated by Maurine St. Gaudens, the exhibition shows the sheer range and diversity of California women artists from the past 100 years. The exhibition begins in the 1860s during the era of the Hudson River School, the Rocky Mountain School, and the Forty-Niners – a period when American women were first becoming involved with the art world through informal training and apprenticeships. As demonstrated by Mary Stevens Fish’s painting from 1879 called Yosemite, California women artists wanted to paint exactly the same subjects as the men [fig. 2].
Another American museum, the Monhegan Museum of Art & History in Maine, also decided to celebrate the history of women artists by exhibiting an in-depth retrospective of local artist, Maud Briggs Knowlton (1870-1956). Knowlton, who was one of the few women to paint on Monhegan Island in the 1890s, also became the director of the Currier Museum of Art and was one of the first women to lead an American art museum. The exhibition, “A Life Made in Art: Maud Briggs Knowlton,” which opens in July of 2019, displays more than 40 watercolors, oils, etchings, drawings, painted porcelain, and turn-of-the-century photographs by the artist’s husband, Edward [fig. 3]. The record the pair produced in the 1890s of the rustic architecture and cottage flower gardens on Monhegan Island demonstrate why it was such an inspiring place.
June 2019 also saw the opening of an exciting new exhibition at the University of Georgia’s Museum of Art featuring women artists of the Works Progress Administration. “Women of the WPA” displays the work of artists who were hired for relief work by the United States Government during the Great Depression through President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Due to the bureaucratic hiring methods, the WPA did not discriminate against women artists (unlike the private art galleries) and were hired at roughly the same rate as male artists. The exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art runs through September 8th, 2019 and features the work of Lucienne Bloch, Marie Bleck, Marguerite Redman Dorgeloh, Helen Lundeberg, Minnetta Good, Jennie Lewis, Ann Nooney, Elizabeth Olds and others [fig. 4].
Revised histories of women artists have also gained momentum internationally in recent years. The American scholar and author, Jane Fortune (1942-2018), was awarded the prestigious Fiorino d’Oro in Florence in 2016 for her work with the organization she founded in 2009, Advancing Women Artists (AWA). Through the continued work of the AWA, which was recently honored by the city of Florence, over 60 artworks by European women artists of the last 500 years were restored and put on public display.This group includes works by artists such as the Renaissance painter Plautilla Nelli (1524-1588), the Baroque artists Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) and Violante Siries (1709-1783), and the early twentieth century French artist Elisabeth Chaplin (1890-1982), who holds the largest number of artworks by a woman in Florentine collections and whose self-portrait hangs in the Ufizzi Gallery [fig. 5].
Upcoming 2019 exhibitions promise to continue this trend of celebrating underappreciated women artists around the globe. The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), which will open a retrospective exhibition featuring American Feminist artist Judy Chicago in September, will also display a landmark exhibition of women artists of the 17th and early 18th centuries called “Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age” in October of 2019. Until August of 2019, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is exhibiting the first ever retrospective of Native American and Canadian women artists called “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists.” As many New Yorkers know, the Brooklyn Museum also actively exhibits work by women artists and even displays their personal histories, as seen in the recent exhibit “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving” featuring the artist’s wardrobe and cherished possessions. 
Hawthorne Fine Art is thrilled to continue to contribute to this growing field of research on both American women artists and women artists globally. Hawthorne Fine Art actively acquires, restores, and displays artworks by women artists and seeks to raise awareness about the history of these women and their struggle to become professional artists. To view Hawthorne Fine Art’s current inventory please visit our website at HawthorneFineArt.com. For more information or to make an appointment outside of normal gallery open hours, please contact the gallery at email@example.com, or by phone at 212.731.0550.
Freeman’s Auction House, “American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists,” June 9, 2019, Lot 19, freemansauction.com.
“Something Revealed: California Women Artists Emerge, 1860-1960,” Pasadena Museum of History,September 29, 2018 –March 31, 2019, pasadenahistory.org.
“A Life Made in Art: Maud Briggs Knowlton,” July 1 – Sept. 30, 2019, Monhegan Museum of Art & History, Maine, monheganmuseum.org.
Ibid. In the 1890s, Knowlton was one of only three women in the whole nation to direct an American art museum. Knowlton’s time at the Currier Museum was particularly productive; she exhibited work by many of the artists she had met on Monhegan Island, including that of George Bellows, Andrew Winter, Jay Hall Connaway, Leo Meissner, and Frederick J. Waugh. Under her direction, the Currier Museum also became the first museum to exhibit watercolors by Andrew Wyeth in 1939.
Women of the WPA, Jun 08, 2019 – Sept. 8, 2019, Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia, http://georgiamuseum.org.
“Advancing Women Artists Organization Honored in Its Mission to ‘Rediscover Art by Women in Florence,’” Artfix Daily Artwire, May 14, 2019, artfixdaily.com.
“Judy Chicago – The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction,” Sept. 19, 2019 – Jan. 20, 2020 & “Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age,” Oct. 11, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020, National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington D.C., https://nmwa.org.
“Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists,” June 2 – August 18, 2019, Minneapolis Institute of Art, https://new.artsmia.org.
“Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” Feb. 8 – May 12, 2019, Brooklyn Museum of Art, brooklynmuseum.org.
Fig. 1 – Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942), Ethel Page as Undine, 1885, oil on canvas, private collection.
Fig. 2 – Mary Stevens Fish, Yosemite, 1879.
Fig. 3 – Maud Briggs Knowlton, “Monhegan Shore Flowers,” 1921, watercolor on paper, Anonymous Lender to the Monhegan Museum of Art & History.
Fig. 4 – Lucienne Bloch, Detroit, 1932, lithograph on paper, Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, 1988.107.
Fig. 5 – Elisabeth Chaplin (1890-1982), Self Portrait, 1908, oil on canvas, Ufizzi Gallery, Florence.