Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Women's History Month -- Lady Limners

March is Women’s History Month, and a chance to recognize a more authentic view of history than many of us have been exposed to. This is a month to honor the women who have historically had their achievements overlooked, undervalued and sometimes denied.

This blog is about children's books, writing, art (and the occasional cat!) -- and it’s about women’s achievements in the arts and elsewhere. I wrote a book which was inspired by the many 18th and 19th century women folk painters who worked in anonymity. Here are five of those early folk artists who were not anonymous, who have been identified and have found their way into art history books:

'The Tree of Light' - Hannah Cohoon (1845)

HANNAH COHOON was a Shaker whose paintings are bold and visionary. There are indications she did not fit comfortably into the Shaker way of life, with her strong sense of self (she signed her paintings).

DEBORAH GOLDSMITH’S story was romantic and tragic. Poverty forced her to become an itinerant painter. Moving in with a family whose portraits she was to paint, she met her future husband. She continued to paint until her marriage, but died soon after.

EUNICE PINNEY’S paintings have been found in greater numbers than those of any other woman folk artist. She didn’t become a painter until she was a mature woman with five children, but her watercolors are appreciated to this day.

RUTH SHUTE was a painter who traveled both alone and with her painter husband, selling her work from town to town.

MARY ANN WILLSON lived on a small farm, created her own paint out of brick dust, vegetable dyes and berry juice, but managed to sell her paintings over a wide area.

The theme of the Women’s History Project for this month’s celebration is “Our History is Our Strength.” A quote from their website press release is “Learning about women’s tenacity, courage and creativity throughout the centuries is a tremendous source of strength.” These artists were strong, creative and tenacious. A study of women’s history will supply strong role models for today’s girls, in full measure -- if we spend the time it takes to look for them.

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