330 Years of Female Printmakers (1570–1900) : Download Free Prints, Visit the Exhibit

Female Artists 1

Hen­ri­et­ta Louisa Koe­nen was born a cen­tu­ry before the Guer­ril­la Girls, but her col­lect­ing habits are a strong argu­ment for hon­orary, posthu­mous mem­ber­ship in the activist group.

The wife of the Rijksmuseum’s Print Room’s first direc­tor, Koe­nen spent over three decades acquir­ing prints by female artists, though dis­cour­ag­ing­ly few of the 827 women in her col­lec­tion achieved much in the way of recog­ni­tion for their work.

Renais­sance aris­to­crat­ic painter, Sofon­is­ba Anguis­so­la, and por­traitist (and found­ing mem­ber of London’s Roy­al Acad­e­my of ArtsAngel­i­ca Kauff­man, have the dis­tinc­tion of being namechecked in the Guer­ril­la Girl’s 1989 provo­ca­tion, below.

Female Artists 2

Nei­ther can be said to enjoy the muse­um tote bag celebri­ty of a Kahlo or O’Keeffe.

Female Artists 3

Self por­tait, Angel­i­ca Kauff­man

Their work can be expect­ed to attract some new fans, now that 80 some pieces from Koenen’s col­lec­tion are on dis­play as part of the New York Pub­lic Library’s exhib­it, Print­ing Women: Three Cen­turies of Female Print­mak­ers, 1570–1900.

(And it would be unseem­ly not to cred­it Amer­i­can art deal­er Samuel Put­nam Avery, for donat­ing Koe­nen’s col­lec­tion to the library at the turn of the last cen­tu­ry, twen­ty years after her death.)

Female Artists 4

Print­mak­ing is a fre­quent­ly col­lab­o­ra­tive art. The droll Young Girl Laugh­ing at the Old Woman, above, was drawn by Anguis­so­la and engraved by Jacob Bos.

And Maria Cosway’s Music Has Charms, at the top of this post, was a fam­i­ly affair, with Cosway print­ing hus­band Richard’s celes­tial ren­der­ing of daugh­ter Louisa Paoli­na Angel­i­ca. (Mrs. Cosway was also an accom­plished com­pos­er and painter of minia­tures and mytho­log­i­cal scenes, though his­to­ry has decreed her most endur­ing claim to fame should be her hold over a besot­ted Thomas Jef­fer­son.)

The library high­lights the con­tin­u­um with an online gallery show­cas­ing the work of con­tem­po­rary female print­mak­ers, some of whom are con­tribut­ing guest posts to cura­tor Madeleine Viljoen’s Print­ing Women blog.

Female Artists 5

Sara Sanders, whose 2010 Lith­o­graph, Unti­tled Chair #5, above, is part of a larg­er series, writes:

I believe that the domes­tic objects with which we spend our lives retain traces of our his­to­ries and tell sto­ries about our pasts. These prints are part of an ongo­ing series of por­traits of chairs drawn in the way we imag­ine them to be. Two of the chairs in this series were drawn from exist­ing objects with a rich his­to­ry, while the rest are imag­ined char­ac­ter stud­ies.

Her thoughts seem par­tic­u­lar­ly ger­mane, when the “less­er gen­res” of orna­ment, still-life, and land­scape were by default fre­quent sub­jects for the female artists in Koenen’s col­lec­tion. Pro­pri­ety deemed the fair­er sex should not be par­ty to the nude fig­ure stud­ies that sig­nif­i­cant reli­gious and his­tor­i­cal scenes so often demand­ed.

(Chan­nel your inner Guer­ril­la Girl by per­form­ing an image search on Rape of the Sabine Women, and imag­in­ing the mod­els as aspi­rant artists them­selves, con­fined to such sub­ject mat­ter as vio­lets and laun­dry day.)

That’s not to say domes­tic sub­jects can’t prove divine.

Female Artists 6

Wit­ness 1751’s A Child Seat­ed, Blow­ing Bub­bles by Madame de Pom­padour, an ama­teur artist and fre­quent­ly paint­ed beau­ty, who, the Nation­al Gallery’s web­site informs us, was “groomed from child­hood to become a play­thing for the King.”

View the online brochure for New York Pub­lic Library’s Print­ing Women: Three Cen­turies of Female Print­mak­ers, 1570–1900 exhi­bi­tion here. The exhi­bi­tion at The New York Pub­lic Library ends May 27th, 2016.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

11 Essen­tial Fem­i­nist Books: A New Read­ing List by The New York Pub­lic Library

The Women of the Avant-Garde: An Intro­duc­tion Fea­tur­ing Audio by Gertrude Stein, Kathy Ack­er, Pat­ti Smith & More

The New York Pub­lic Library Lets You Down­load 180,000 Images in High Res­o­lu­tion: His­toric Pho­tographs, Maps, Let­ters & More

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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