Women Artists of the Renaissance and 18th Century

Significance of Education to Women Artists of the Renaissance

Education played a vital role among female artists of the Renaissance and women artists working in the 18 century France and England in many ways. Firstly, education enabled them to learn the requisite skills, knowledge, and expertise necessary for improving their painting work. With these skills, the women were able to compete with men in the painting industry favorably. Education was also important because it empowered women painters and artists. It improved their economic status in the society and, hence, enabled them to survive in the otherwise patrilineal and patriarchal society of the time. Education also made it possible for women of that era to challenge the stereotypical notions and ideas that the place were they should be was in the home and that they could not become something else. The establishment of education facilities such as the Guilds also gave women the opportunity to fight for equal right with men at least as far as art was concerned. In Florence, for example, education on things like mathematics synced well with the structure of the merchant society, as it enabled women to view painting as a business.

One example of a woman artist who found creative ways to access knowledge was Rosalba Carriera who “was the first artist of the century to explore the possibility of pastel fully as a medium uniquely suited to the early eighteenth-century search for an art of surface elegance and sensation.” Her success in France led to her being elected to the Academie Royale in 1862. Her position of being a foreigner in France also contributed to her rise to stardom in the artistry industry, as she found favor with most rulers.

Another woman who acquired knowledge of art in a creative way was Angelica Kauffman who “was the first woman painter to challenge the masculine monopoly over history painting exercised by the Academicians.” She learned a lot about painting by copying various Renaissance works and the paintings of Correggio. Through this, she gained more awareness of the most popular antique themes used by painters in England. She spent a lot of time traveling with her father and the lack of formal education made her determined to acquire artistic knowledge. Mary Delaney was another female artist who studied art in an unusual way by producing “collages of paper cut flowers mounted on sheets of paper colored black with India ink.”

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Intellectual Arguments

Different kinds of intellectual arguments were offered in describing and defining women in the eighteenth century. Firstly, it was argued that they did not have a meaningful role in the cultural renaissance. This was a masculine argument which stressed that women could not positively contribute to the embellishment and growth of cities in England. Furthermore, it was argued that women could only fit into the unskilled activities at the guilds and could, therefore, not match the abilities of men who were already skilled artists. To this end, women who emerged as potentially skilled artists were criticized by academicians most of whom were male. Women of the 18 century were resisting the social gender roles of their time by challenging the various criticisms about their artistic skills and abilities in the society. They also challenged the popular notion that their gender roles were restricted to homes by venturing out into foreign countries to interact with unfamiliar environments and learn more to perfect their artistic skills.

Social Consequences for 18 Century Women

One of the social consequences for women who took up more public roles, activities, and professions included criticisms and satirical comments about them. Angelica Kauffmann and other contemporary artists, for example, were dismissed because they were incapable of achieving much due to lack of control, inferiority, and little training on works of art. These women were, therefore, critisized because of their decision to take up more social roles, especially in regards to art. Such women were also the subjects of attacks from various parts of the society and, particularly, men who somehow felt threatened by their new “Renaissance.” Some women, for example, Chardin and Anna Vallayer-Coster, were patronized by rich merchants and the court on the grounds of the morality of their paintings.

Contemporary Social and Cultural Consequences for Women Taking up Public Roles

Today women who take up public professions, activities, and roles are still met with various consequences mainly because our society is still to a large extent patriarchal in nature and structure. According to Schwanke, today’s society erects various barriers that hinder the social advancement of women, particularly in leadership. The author argues that there is a labyrinth or glass ceiling that women have to contend with as they seek leadership positions in today’s society. Two examples of how these consequences affect women can be mentioned in regard to Heather D’Angelo, a musician, and Sarah Manning, a jazz composer and saxophonist, as both artists have at one point complained of being treated less favorably than their male counterparts.



Chadwick, Whitney. “Amateur and Academics: A New Ideology of Femininity in France and England.” In Women, Art, and Society, 139-174. London: Thames & Hudson, 2012.

Chadwick, Whitney. “Modernism, Abstraction, and the New Woman.” In Women, Art, and Society, 252-278. London: Thames & Hudson, 2012.

Chadwick, Whitney. “The Renaissance Ideal.” In Women, Art, and Society, 66-86. London: Thames & Hudson, 2012.

Schwanke, Dee-Ann. “Barriers for Women to Positions of Power: How Social and Corporate Structures, Perceptions of Leadership, and Discrimination Restrict Women’s Advancement to Authority.” Inquiries Journal 3, no. 2 (2013): 1-26.