Buchtipp: "Rebel Artists" von Kari Herbert
Culture & Society

Book tip: 3 “Rebel Artists” I have only discovered through Kari Herbert

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Are you interested in art and especially in female artists? Then “Rebel Artists: 15 Women Painters Who Showed the World” by Kari Herbert is just right for you. The author presents an inspiring selection of women*, including an overview of the work of 15 “Rebel Artists”. The colorful illustrations and easy-to-understand language make the book accessible to a wide audience and all ages. And that is something I usually miss in many books about art.

Buchtipp: "Rebel Artists" von Kari Herbert
Rebel Artists von Kari Herbert

I discovered these 3 artists through “Rebel Artists” by Kari Herbert

I studied art history myself and was able to discover new artists through “Rebel Artists”. So I would like to introduce three of them here:

Pioneer of Inuit Art: Kenojuak Ashevak

Kenojuak Ashevak was born in 1927 in the former Camp Ikirasaq in Canada. Today she is considered the most important Inuit artist in the country. Drawing was in fact not originally part of the traditional craft of her people. Kenojuak Ashevak began her famous art because of the artist James Houston. He was commissioned by the government to help the Inuit sell their handcrafts. When Kenojuak Ashevak began to draw in 1955 her art quickly became enthusiastic. Today she is considered a pioneer of Inuit art. While her prints sold from Paris to Tokyo. Above all her designs now adorn Canadian stamps and coins.

The pop-art nun: Corita Kent

When most people think of Pop Art, they quickly recall artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein. I’m no exception. Corita Kent, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to fit into this lineup. Corita was born as Frances Elizabeth Kent in Iowa in 1918 and entered a convent to become a nun at the age of 18. Inspired by Andy Warhol the convent school art teacher devoted herself to her own art in the 1960s – with success! She graced magazines as the “modern nun” and her “pop art with heart” made her famous. Her works reflected her thoughts on poverty, racism and war. It also spread her messages of social justice and peace.

From model in Montmartre to “Rebel Artist”: Suzanne Valadon

Born in 1865 to a French laundress, Suzanne Valadon became the first woman to join the famous Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Her journey began at age 15 when she modeled in Montmartre. Formerly a poor artists’ village near Paris, today it is one of the city’s most beautiful quarters. Self-taught, Suzanne learned from the artists she modeled for. Among them were well-known names like Degas, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, who in turn were taken with her paintings. Her art was considered honest and blunt – but also unfeminine. Nevertheless, Suzanne was recognized as an artist during her lifetime and associated with the most famous painters of her era, whose names are now common knowledge.

How could I not have heard of these “Rebel Artists”?

So that no misunderstandings occur I would like to make something clear. The study of art history is not designed to learn about the “greatest artists of all time”. Rather, the development of art epochs is taught on the basis of the most innovative works and most famous representatives. To deal with individual artists is then up to the students themselves and so my unfamiliarity is also partly my own fault.

But this selection of the most “innovative” works and artists is made by the so-called “canon”. It is THE narrative of art – to which art historians have retrospectively committed themselves. And let’s remember: The majority of art historians, gallery owners, museum directors, art collectors and artists were almost exclusively men* until a few decades ago. Considering that fact it seems easier to understand why many women* in particular have been forgotten, even despite their success during their lifetimes. The art scene has always been an exclusive club, where good relationships, self-presentation, and a big pinch of luck have been crucial. Women* were the exception to the rule, usually having worse social access to the scene and being less well networked.

Want to learn more about rediscovered women* artists?

If you would like to look further into “forgotten” women* artists, I can recommend the Arte documentary “Lost Women Art”. In this documentary, art historians and curators deal with significant women* artists. Some of them were very successful during their lifetime and have only recently been rediscovered. The two-part documentary provides interesting insight into the mechanisms of the art scene. But it also also introduces inspiring women* who unfortunately were forgotten due to art historiography. Fortunately, there are more and more art historians who bring these women* from the archives to light. And as a result, they bring back some true diversity to the “canon”.

“Lost Women Art” (available until 08/12/21):

(* We want to include everyone in this society, regardless of gender)

“Rebel Artists: 15 Women Painters Who Showed the World” by Kari Herbert was published in September 2019 by C.H. Beck. The Hardcover Book costs around 18 Euro through C.H. Beck

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