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Museum Curator Paper

Updated on May 10, 2012

As a curator of a museum in my town, the works I would choose would all be my women painters. Women in the 1400s through the 1900s had one role, and it was to be a mother and a housewife. Even long before the 1400s, women were always doing the same things – giving birth, taking care of the children, taking care of the household chores, and taking care of their husbands. They were considered property to their husbands and never played a very significant role in society.

The few women who stand out to me are Elisabeth Viegee-Lebrun, Rachel Ruysch, Mary Cassatt, Rosa Bonheur, Angelica Kauffmann, Sofonisba Anguissola, and Caterina van Hemessen. I chose one painting from each of these women because they broke out of what was to be considered the norm for women. They gave our society beautiful works of art that contributed greatly to the society we have today, more than what any of the men could have done. Without these women, we’d be missing a very valuable change in our society. These women did what they loved, and it is because of their work that our society has become what it is today. I wanted to know more about these women and their paintings, and as a curator, I would want the rest of the world to know about them, too.

For Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, I would choose her self-portrait. She started painting at a very young age, being taught by her father, and from the time she was fifteen, she was distinguished in society by princes and dukes. Lebrun was admitted into the Royal Academy (the official art institution) after being appointed by the French queen in 1783. She was one of only four female academicians (Moffat, Charles). After the French Revolution, however, women were no longer admitted into the Academy. Because of her remarkable abilities at such a young age, she caught the eye of many important figures and was recognized for her talent.

Rachel Ruysch is considered the most celebrated Dutch woman artist of the 17th and 18th centuries. For seventy years, she specialized and was very successful at flower still life paintings. At fifteen, she was apprenticed to Willem van Aelst, a well-known Dutch flower painter. Im 1701, she became a member of the painters’ guild in The Hague, and several years later, was invited to serve as a court painter to Johann Wilhelm (The Permanent Connection). Like Lebrun, she was very skilled at a young age and was noticed by many important figures. Because of her talent and dedication, I would choose to put her flower still life in my museum.

Mary Cassatt traveled to France at the age of twenty-one to study in Paris where she took private lessons from Jean-Leon Gerome. After three years, she returned home, only to return to Europe in 1871, staying in Italy, Spain, Belgium, and Holland. She eventually settled in Paris and showed her works regularly in the Salons. In 1877, she was invited by Edgar Degas to join the group of independent artists that were later known as the Impressionists, making her the only American officially associated with the group. She specialized in mother and child themes from this point on (Weinberg, Barbara H). Like the other two women, her skill did not go unnoticed and she got the attention of many well known people, making her a very popular artist.

Rosa Bonheur specialized in paintings animals, particularly horses. Her work was well known throughout Europe and America through contacts and exhibitions. She attracted public attention and became one of the most original figures in the 19th century. She was trained as an artist at a young age and was mostly influenced by her father, who was also an artist. She spent lots of time at horse fairs and slaughterhouses in order to understand the ranges of animal emotions and physical attributes. She was interested in depicting animals and the natural world. By the time she was twenty-three, she had already exhibited eighteen works at the Paris Salon and in 1848, she was given a gold medal. The Horse Fair was completed when she was thirty-one years old; no other animal painter had produced a work as big as The Horse Fair. This piece eventually established her international fame. She was sent to Belgium where art dealer Ernest Gambart noticed the painting and later purchased it (The Art History Archive). I would choose The Horse Fair to be displayed in my museum to show her wonderful talent and because of her great success in life.

Angelica Kauffmann was being taught about paintings since she was just a baby. Instead of playing with dolls and toys, she spent her childhood learning from her father who was very strict in his teachings. At nine years old her talent was very noticeable and got the attention of The Dutchess of Modena, who allowed her to paint her portrait. She traveled to many places with her father and she painted portraits of the Count Montfort family and gained many admirers. She contributed to the Royal Academy in London annually and was appointed by the Academy with others to decorate St Paul’s Cathedral (Gerard, Frances A). Because of her strong talent and popularity, she, too, made a huge impact on the world. I would choose Mother of the Gracchi to be displayed as I feel it shows the talent she possessed.

Sofonisba Anguissola began to study art at fourteen with her siser Elena with Bernardino Campi. She never sold her paintings. Her earliest paintings were self portraits. She depicts herself painting and reading and playing instruments. She tutored the Queen in drawing and paintging, serving in Europe’s most prestigious court. Her talent also gained her fame and popularity amongst well known figures.

Caterina van Hemessen created portraits of wealthy men and women, often posed against a dark background. She is most known for her self portrait painted in Basel. She was in the Guild of St. Luke and was a teacher to three male students. In the 1540s, she gained an important patron, Maria of Austria. She mainly painted portraits characterized by realism. The dark background made for an intimate portrait (saylor). Her unique style with the dark background made her stand out in her time and she gained the respect of many well known people.

Works Cited

"Caterina Van Hemesse."Saylor. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Caterina-Van-Hemessen.pdf>.


"Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun."The Permanent Connection. The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nmwa.org/collection/profile.asp?LinkID=1945>.


Gerard, Frances A. Angelica Kauffmann: A Biography. Google EBook. Google Books. Google. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en>.


Moffat, Charles. "Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun: Biography & Art."The Art History Archive. The Art History Achive, 2007. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/rococo/Elisabeth-Vigee-Lebrun.html>.



"Rachel Ruysch."The Permanent Connection. National Museum of Women in the Arts., 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nmwa.org/collection/Profile.asp?LinkID=388>.


"Rosa Bonheur."The Art History Archive. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/realism/Rosa-Bonheur.html>.



Weinberg, Barbara H. "Mary Stevenson Cassatt."Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cast/hd_cast.htm>.

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