Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age” has recently closed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. On February 2, “A Tale of Two Women Painters” closes at the Prado. So, what do fans of female Old Masters have to look forward to?

In a word: lots! This year is shaping up to be an exciting one for women artists generally, including those still living. In this post, though, we’ll focus exclusively on Old Masters. Beginning in March 2020, exhibitions in Florence, London, Trento, Paris, and Milan shine a spotlight on these women artists from about the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries:

Artichokes in a Chinese Dish with Rose and Strawberries, c. 1650, by Giovanna Garzoni. Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti.

“The Greatness of the Universe” in the Art of Giovanna Garzoni

Pitti Palace, Uffizi Galleries, Florence, 10 March–24 May 2020

Update, May 22, 2020: We hear that the show, closed due to covid, will open on May 29, and run through June 29.

Entirely dedicated to works by Giovanna Garzoni (1600–1670), this exhibition highlights works by the artist from the Medici collection, which are still preserved at the Uffizi Galleries. Garzoni is recognized as a major figure in the evolution of scientific illustration, but she is less well-known as an illustrator of the geographic imagery of the Baroque era. “‘The Greatness of the Universe’ in the Art of Giovanna Garzoni” highlights how Garzoni combined exotic objects of different origins such as Chinese porcelain, Pacific nautical, Mexican pumpkins and flowers, South American plants, or English lounge dogs, with the ultimate goal of amazing and amusing the viewer.

For more information about the Giovanna Garzoni exhibit, visit this page.

Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1615–17, by Artemisia Gentileschi. The National Gallery, London.


The National Gallery, London, 4 April–26 July 2020

Update, July 13,2020: just announced, this show is now slated to open on 3 October 2020, and will run until 24 January 2021.

This exhibition offers visitors a unique chance to encounter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1652/3), one of the premier artists of the Italian Baroque. “Artemisia” features some of her best-known paintings and self-portraits, as well as more recently discovered works. Gentileschi was the first woman to gain membership to the artists’ academy in Florence. She enjoyed a successful career as a painter, spanning more than 40 years. This show presents 35 works from public and private collections around the world, to present a selective overview of Artemisia’s career.

For more information about the Artemisia Gentileschi exhibit, visit this page.

Self-portrait with the Bust of Minerva, c. 1780, by Angelica Kauffman. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Chur.

Angelica Kauffman

The Royal Academy, London, 28 June–20 September, 2020

Update, May 22, 2020: due to covid, unfortunately the organizers have had to cancel this exhibition.

Organized in collaboration with Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, this major exhibition traces the trajectory of Angelica Kauffman (1741–1807) from child prodigy to one of Britain’s most sought-after painters. Kauffman was a highly acclaimed portraitist, though she identified herself primarily as a history painter. Born in Switzerland and trained in Italy, she worked for patrons across Britain and the continent, including Catherine the Great. “Angelica Kauffman” focuses on the work of this celebrated artist at the height of her public acclaim.

For more information about the Angelica Kauffman exhibit, visit this page.

Noli me tangere, 1616, by Fede Galizia. Pinacoteca Brera.

Fede Galizia, Amazon of Painting

Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, 4 July–25 October 2020

Update, June 28, 2020: it looks (from various Italian websites) that this show has been postponed until next year. The dates now given are July 2–October 26, 2021.

After long years oblivion, Fede Galizia (c. 1578–c. 1630) is beginning to regain the international esteem that she enjoyed during her lifetime. To the extent that her name is known today, it is associated primarily with her magnificent still lifes (one of which recently sold at auction in New York for more than two million dollars). But Galizia dealt with other subject matter, too. She painted portraits and altarpieces, and experimented several times with Judith and Holofernes, a popular biblical theme. “Fede Galizia: Amazzone Nella Pittura” is the first solo exhibition for this artist.

For more information about the Fede Galizia exhibit, visit this page.

Peace Bringing Back Abundance, 1780, by Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Femmes peintres, des artistes comme les autres / Women Painters, Artists Like Others

Musée du Luxembourg, 30 September 2020–24 January 2021

Update, September 1, 2020: According to the Musée du Luxembourg website, this show has been rescheduled for March 3–July 4, 2021. Update May 16, 2021: according to the museum website, the show has been re-rescheduled to open May 19, 2021, and runt through July 4.

“Femmes painters, des artistes come les autres” is dedicated to women artists whose work featured in French art salons from 1780 to 1830. Through a display of 80 paintings by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Marguerite Gérard, Constance Mayer, and many others, viewers learn about a unique period in French art. The exhibition features paintings by less well-known artists, as well as by painters whose names are more familiar to today’s art lovers. In addition to displaying artworks by these women, the show explores issues such as training conditions; the status of female artists from 1780 to 1830; and the battles they had to fight in order to produce and exhibit their own works. The show offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse the daily life of these painters.

For more information about the “Femmes peintres” exhibit, visit this page.

Portrait of Bianca Ponzoni Anguissola, ca. 1557, by Sofonisba Anguissola. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

“Le signore del Barocco” / The Ladies of the Baroque

Palazzo Reale, Milan, December 3, 2020–April 11, 2021

Update, December 1, 2020: According to the Palazzo Reale website, this exhibition has been rescheduled for February 5June 6, 2021. Now apparently March 2July 25, 2021 (visit this site for more info).

“The Ladies of the Baroque” in Milan presents about 80 paintings by Italian women artists of the 1600s. These female Old Masters include some more familiar names, such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Sofonisba Anguissola, Lavinia Fontana, Giovanna Garzoni, Elisabetta Sirani, and Fede Galizia. But it also includes some artists at a more preliminary stage of rediscovery: Barbara Longhi, Diana Ghisi Scultori, Orsola Maddalena Caccia, Virginia da Vezzo, Plautilla Bricci, and Ginevra Cantofoli. The show is the culmination of Creativa 2020, Milan’s year-long multidisciplinary program dedicated to women’s creativity.

For more information about the exhibit, visit this page.


And there’s more to come in 2021 [and because of covid-related delays, also 2022]. We have already heard that the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wadsworth Atheneum have combined forces to present By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800. This show opens first in Hartford in October 2020 (we’ll post more info as it becomes available); it is tentatively scheduled to open in Detroit in February 2021. [Update, June 29, 2020: According to the DIA website, this show is now tentatively scheduled to run February 6–May 29, 2022.] And the Cleveland Art Museum plans a focus exhibition, Variations: The Reuse of Models in Paintings by Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, opening in late December 2020. [Update, June 29, 2020: According to the website of the Cleveland Museum of Art, this show is now tentatively scheduled to run April 11–August 22, 2021.]

Watch this space for updates about exhibitions featuring female Old Masters. And do contact us (email erika@artherstory.net) if you know of any relevant shows opening in 2020 that do not appear in this post.

More Art Herstory blog posts about female Old Masters:

Renaissance Women Painting Themselves, Guest post by Dr. Katherine McIver

The Priceless Legacy of Artemisia Gentileschi: A Curator’s Perspective, Guest post by Dr. Judith W. Mann

A Tale of Two Women Painters, Guest post / exhibition review by Natasha Moura

Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser: Founding Women Artists of the Royal Academy

Orsola Maddalena Caccia (1596-1676), Convent Artist, Guest post by Dr. Angela Ghirardi

Gesina ter Borch: Artist, not Amateur, Guest post by Dr. Nicole E. Cook

Judith Leyster, Leading Star

The Protofeminist Insects of Giovanna Garzoni and Maria Sibylla Merian, by Prof. Emma Steinkraus

A Dozen Great Women Artists, Renaissance and Baroque

Why Do Old Mistresses Matter Today?, Guest post by Dr. Merry Wiesner-Hanks

Michelangelo’s Sisters: (Re)Introducing Female Old Masters

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