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The history of art without men

After reading Katy Hessel’s book which talks about women artists who were influential, and who I haven’t heard of before (due to the lack of promotion and the fact that women were ‘unable to do art’) I decided to find a woman artist that really stood out for me, and how they compare to their male peers. The male artists who I think are the most talented and my personal favourites are Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. If you don’t know the art that they make, Lucian Freud is best described as an intricate figurative artist who's art is extremely psychoanalytical and almost eerie like due to the realism and attention to detail throughout. He is notorious for painting his teenage daughters naked, but that is a story for another time. Francis Bacon is also a figurative artist, who focuses more on the environment created through his work, which is most commonly very unsettling and very raw. Quite often, abstract figures are depicted, sometimes isolated in geometrical figures. Together, these artists were very influential when it comes to depicting figures, by physically and mentally doing so.


I tried to think as much as I could to come up with a female artist that I know of, who could compare to Freud and Bacon, and I couldn’t. So then my research started. I googled ‘artists similar to Lucian Freud’, to which, unsurprisingly, all the names were that of male artists. The same thing happened when I did so with Francis Bacon. So I did research into female artists from the 1900s.


Kathe Kollwitz was born in Konigsberg, Prussia in 1867. She was a German artist who worked with painting, printmaking (including etching, lithography and woodcuts) and sculpture. Her art caught my attention due to the psychorealism and intense attention to detail. She is able to capture the subject in such a way that makes the viewer deeply intrigued and emotionally connected to the subject.


Virtually, the only portraits she made were of herself, of which there are at least fifty. These self-portraits constitute a lifelong honest self-observation, with Kathe stating "they are psychological milestones”.


Kollwitz suffered form severe anxiety as a child, due to the deaths of her siblings, and more recents research suggests that she suffered with a neurological disorder dysmetropsia (sometimes called Alice in Wonderland syndrome, due to its sensory hallucinations and migraines). This could have affected her artwork and the mundane topics of many.

Her political and social stance is also seen in many of her woodcuts, with her being a committed socialist and pacifist, before being attracted to communism.

She also held the position of being the first female professor at the Prussian Academy of Arts, making her influential both in art and in the teaching of it.



Kathe Kollwitz’s art is so enticing and detailed, and she was creating art similar to that of her male counterparts, however I hadn’t heard of her before due to the fact that she was a woman. Hopefully, as time passes, female artists will be spoken about more and appreciated for their talents.


By Tamara

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