Home » The 50 Most Influential Female Artists of the Past 100 years
Recognize these female artists? If you don’t know ’em, you should
Female artists have been kept from gallery shows, museums and the history books. Here at Artistic Fuel, we want to take a moment to celebrate these powerhouse women. From painters, sculptors and photographers to video, performance and installation artists — here’s a list of the most influential female artists of the last hundred years.
This would be one hell of a dinner party. (See what I did there?)
B. 1899 in Berlin, Germany
One of the founding members of “Black Mountain College”, Anni Albers helped shape the landscape of our current interdisciplinary art world. In 1949 Albers became the first textile artist to have a solo show at MOMA.
B. 1946 in Belgrade, Serbia
You either love her or hate her. Marina Abramovic is a divisive figure in the art world – but you can’t argue her role in performance art history.
B. 1947 in Glen Ellyn, IL
Laurie Anderson does a little bit of everything. She’s a composer, musician, visual artist and film director. Anderson combines performance, pop music and visual imagery to set the stage for unforgettable artwork.
B. 1964 in Freeport, Bahamas
Janine Antoni’s work spans – performance, photography and sculpture. Antoni uses her body as both a tool to sculpt and as the subject of her work.
B. 1941 in Lake Charles, LA
Lynda Benglis came to prominence during the 1960’s with sculptures that defied the perceived characteristics of their material. When abstract art was at its height – she took to process art and minimalism to tell her story.
B. 1911 in Paris, France
No list of influential female artists would be complete without, Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois is best known for her large scale sculpture and installations. Her work delves into themes surrounding domesticity, family, sexuality and death. She’s also known for throwing a killer salon.
B. 1969 in England
Cecily Brown explores gendered power dynamics through her paintings combining figuration with complete abstraction.
B. 1929 in Chicago, IL
Judy Chicago is best known for her work shown above, Dinner Party, which is largely recognized as the first monumental installation of feminist artwork. The piece consists of 39 place-settings on a triangular table (48ft each side) set for mythical and historical women.
B. 1952 in Beirut, Lebanon
Mona Hatoum is a multi-media artist who explores politics, gender and the confines of domestic space.
B. 1907 in Mexico City, Mexico
One of the most well known artists of the 20th century, much of Kahlo’s work can be linked back to a horrible bus accident in 1925. During her time bedridden, Kahlo took to painting to pass the time.
Elaine De Kooning
B. 1918 in Brooklyn, NY
Elaine De Kooning was one of the early participants in the Abstract Expressionist movement. Her presidential portrait of JFK hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.
B. 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa
Marlene Dumas works in a range of media with most of the imagery defined as poraiture. Dumas’s portraits aren’t traditional, but rather meant to capture an emotional state of mind.
B. 1966 in Tampa, FL
Janet Echelman is the foremost public artist in the world. Her work, often the size of skyscrapers, reshapes urban airspace and responds to environmental forces.
B. 1963 in Croydon, England
Tracey Emin is a conceptual artist that works in a range of media. Her work, My Bed, took the contents of her bed, sheets, rug, side table and other materials (after a particularly bad break up) and decided it was art. Emin packed it up, and showed it at the Tuner Prize exhibition in 1999.
B. 1928 in Manhattan, NY
Helen Frankenthaler is the queen of abstract expressionism.
Founded in 1985
The Guerilla Girls is an anonymous group of female artists whose work is aimed at calling out the hypocrisy of the art world establishment.
B. 1961 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Katharina Grosse uses architecture, painting and sculpture to create immersive site specific installations. Grosse’s work addresses space and our relationship to it.
B. 1956 in Lima, OH
Ann Hamilton’s works are site responsive and performative in nature – working with common materials and implicating the viewer in the art. Hamilton’s ephemeral, immersive works address communities of labor.
B. 1903 in Wakefield, England
Barbara Hepworth is a modernist sculptor that gained notoriety for her pierced sculptures which aimed to achieve a balance between space and form.
B. 1936 in Hamburg, Germany
Eva Hesse created sculptural installations composed of textiles, latex, and fiberglass. Hesse is one of the founders of the post-minimalism era, she rejected the common standard within her era to do with form and spatial relations. Hesse died at 34 from a brain tumor – thought to be linked to her use of hazardous materials in her studio.
B. 1950 in Gallipolis, OH
Jenny Holzer is a neo-conceptual artist whose work focuses on the delivery of words and ideas in public spaces.
B. 1908 in Brooklyn, NY
Lee Krasner was a abstraction expressionist artist who had a strong affinity for collage in her work. Krasner would cut up old paintings and combine them back together in new and more interesting configurations.
B. 1945 in Newark, NJ
Barbara Kruger is a conceptual artist and collagist. Kruger’s work pulls from her background as a graphic designer. Her bold work includes strong typeface, striking color and imagery to engage the viewer in a political conversation.
B. 1929 in Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan
Yayoi Kusama addresses themes surrounding mental health, gender and sexuality. When she came to America in the 1958 during the height of abstract expressionism she turned instead to performance – pushing the boundaries of what female artists could create. Years later, worrying about her own mental health, Kusama returned to Japan and checked into a mental health facility – where she has lived since. Kusama’s six decade long career has developed her into arguably the most influential artist of the 20th and 21st century.
Influential female artists “L-Z”
Take a breath, we’ve still have a few more influential female artists to go.
B. 1961 in Liberty, NY
Zoe Leonard is a photographer and sculptor working primarily within the themes of gender, sexuality, loss and displacement.
B. 1959 in Athens, OH
Maya Lin is a sculptor and land work artist whose art addresses landscape and the environment. Lin’s work try’s to find a balance in landscape – a respect for nature rather than a dominance of it.
B. 1969 in NY, NY
Liza Lou came to prominence with her work, Kitchen, a 168 sq ft. installation covered completely in millions of glass beads. The full size replica took five years to create.
B. 1951 in Lexington, VA
Sally Mann creates large format photography often her own children as the subject matter. Her work addresses family, loss, and identity.
B. 1948 in Havana, Cuba
Ana Mendieta’s work spans performance, painting, photography, sculpture and video art. Her “earth-work” series addresses themes of place, violence, feminism and belonging.
B. 1948 in Shreveport, LA
Marilyn Minter’s work is sensual and evocative. Working in painting and photography, Minter’s slick photorealistic surfaces blur the line between commercial and fine art.
B. 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya
Wangechi Mutu’s work spans painting, sculpture, film, and performance. Mutu addresses gender, race and colonialism throughout her body of work.
B. 1887 in Sun Prairie, WI
Georgia O’Keefe is the mother of American Modernism. In 1977, she received the National Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award.
B. 1933 in Tokyo, Japan
Yoko Ono is a conceptual artists and member of the fluxus group in the 60’s and 70’s. Ono is most known in the visual arts as a performance artist and filmmaker. Her work is often political in nature and uses the viewer as a participant in the completion of her work.
B. 1946 in London, England
Judy Pfaff is known for her installation art and sculptures. Her works are intricate and expansive. Pfaff uses non traditional materials to create a web of color, line and form that is dizzying and just plain stunning.
B. 1931 in London, England
Bridget Riley is the mother of “op art” or optical illusion art. Her work is sensational in its effect on the viewer – creating a sense of unease.
B. 1962 in Grabs, Switzerland
Pipilotti Rist is a video and installation artist who creates colorful and immersive environments that push the boundaries of video, sculpture and installation art.
B. 1976 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mika Rottenberg is a surrealist video and installation artist whose work explores the link between the female body and production mechanisms.
B. 1970 in Cambridge, England
Jenny Saville’s large scale figural paintings challenge the depiction of the female nude in artwork and brought figure based artwork into the contemporary conversation.
B. 1923 in Toronto, Canada
Miriam Schapiro was a painter, sculptor and printmaker whose work blurred lines between fine art and craft.
B. 1939 in Fox Chase, PA
Carolee Schneeman was multimedia artists whose work addressed topics surrounding the body, sexuality and gender. Schneeman started her career as a painter but became disinterested in the work being created by her male counterparts, she turned to performance based artwork.
B. 1954 in Glen Ridge, NJ
Cindy Sherman is a photographer that uses makeup and costuming to create a myriad of personas that question our perception of self, wealth and identity. Almost all of Sherman’s work is self portraiture.
B. 1955 in Detroit, MI
Amy Sillman is an interdisciplinary artist who uses painting, drawings, cartoons, collage, iPhone video, and zines. Sillman’s work spans abstract art to representational. Her work uses humor to critique our psychological space and address feminism.
B. 1954 in Nuremberg, Germany
Kiki Smith is a multi-media artist whose work spans topics from birth and regeneration, Aids and gender to the human condition and its relationship to nature.
B. 1959 in Seattle, WA
Jessica Stockholder is a sculpture and installation artist whose work questions the distinctions between – sculpture, painting and the environment.
B. 1969 in Boston, MA
Sarah Sze grew up in a family of architects – and you can tell when you look at her work. Sze addresses technology and informations role in contemporary society through sculpture and installation.
B. 1962 in San Francisco, CA
Diana Thater is a video and installation artist who addresses the environment, extinction and our relationship to it through immersive video installations.
B. 1971 in Camden, NJ
Mickalene Thomas is a painter and collagist whose mixed media paintings address issues of femininity, race, and beauty.
B. 1969 in Stockton, CA
Kara Walker is painter, printmaker, installation and video artist – who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work.
B. 1958 in Manhattan, NY
Francesca Woodman was a shooting star. The artist died from suicide at only 22. Woodman’s photographs are iconic and pushed every boundary to do with the role of photography as a medium.
B. 1965 in Escondido, Ca
Andrea Zittel is a sculptor, installation and social practice artist whose work questions our notions of society in relationship to architecture, space and home.