Women in the Arts: [Citation Needed]

The gender gap in the arts is narrowing, yet women continue to only make up around 25% of solo gallery shows, and in 30 years of prizes, a woman has only won the Turner Prize six times.

Editors at work at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon; Photograph by Kat Brewster

Editors at work at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon; Photograph by Kat Brewster

Consider Wikipedia: It is often the first resource for any high-school or college research paper, any quibble about who starred in what movie, or, for that matter, any question asked of the internet. With almost 5 million English-language articles and growing (there is even a Wikipedia article that attempts to calculate the size and growing rate of Wikipedia), Wikipedia is a dominant digital source for human knowledge.

Then, consider the fact that Wikipedia reports that only 8.5% of its editors identify as female. With that lack of female voices contributing to the seventh most visited website on the entire internet, there’s going to be a worrying lack of representation. Couple the online gender disparity with the one found in the arts, and we’ve got a problem.

It’s possible that with the historic underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, some women feel that they lack the skills or confidence to contribute online. Recent events and longstanding dynamics—from Gamergate to any YouTube comment thread—may mean that women don’t feel safe creating content. But it doesn’t take a woman to write about a woman, so what explains the lack of female artists on Wikipedia? And if people aren’t writing about women artists, what’s the likelihood they’re learning about women artists? What are the consequences?

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the National Museum of Women in the Arts held a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to combat the gender disparities on the internet and in Wikipedia arts representation. The aim was to create, edit, and expand Wikipedia entries about female artists, as well as give women the skills to continue to contribute. With my friend Kim, my laptop, a cup of coffee, and a book about women in the arts (thanks, Library and Research Center!) I was more than ready to participate.

Photograph by Laura Hoffman

Photograph by Laura Hoffman

First, Wikipedia’s editing system is a little tricky to learn. I had worked with HTML in the past, but Wikipedia is its own beast. Thankfully, we were given a quick tutorial and a cheat sheet, so once I started with smaller editing commands for an hour or so, I felt confident diving into articles.

Here’s something I hadn’t anticipated: Wikipedia was always my go-to for reading about people (Millennial alert), which meant I couldn’t use it as a reference tool for quick facts. I hadn’t even realized my own dependency on Wikipedia until this moment, and it made it all the more important for me to add some content. So, I opened a book and started editing.

When I resurfaced hours later, I had contributed bits and pieces to articles about Cady Noland, A. L. Steiner, and Sophie Calle. These edits were small—largely adding citations, moving content, or adding to help with flow or cohesiveness—but I was surprisingly gratified to know that I had contributed to someone else’s knowledge of these artists. As a whole, Art+Feminism’s 2015 Wikipedia Edit-a-thon added 334 new articles to Wikipedia about female artists and, more importantly, gave me the confidence to continue contributing to Wikipedia in the future.

—Kat Brewster is a development events intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Recent library acquisitions: Bookplates by Helena Bochořáková-Dittrichová

Museum visitors may remember the recent exhibition in NMWA’s Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center featuring wordless novels by the first woman graphic novelist, Czech artist Helena Bochořáková-Dittrichová. Her bold black-and-white woodcuts visually narrate her life experiences, religion, and history.

Ex-Libris_Title-Page

Shortly after the show closed, the library obtained a 1925 limited-edition portfolio of copperplate and woodcut bookplates that the artist personally designed for others. Although not complete—the library’s copy is missing two bookplates—the 13 prints nonetheless represent a likely commercial activity for the artist, a means of making a living. Additionally, the copperplate prints reveal her talent and skill with drawing, a very different medium from woodcuts. These works contrast nicely with the accomplished graphic work evident in her woodcuts. Much like her wordless novels and illustrated stories, her bookplates focus on quiet domestic scenes. Many feature a person reading in a library or in a pastoral setting.

Venice, Ex libris Ant. a Otmar Špička; Drypoint copperplate engraving (left), and Student, Ex libris Ant. a Otmar Špička; Drypoint copperplate engraving (right)

Venice, Ex libris Ant. a Otmar Špička; Drypoint copperplate engraving (left), and Student, Ex libris Ant. a Otmar Špička; Drypoint copperplate engraving (right)

Bookplates commonly contained the Latin words ex libris, which translates from Latin as “from the books of” or “from the library of.” These consist of labels that bear the name of a book owner and are pasted inside the front covers (endpapers) of books as an expression of ownership. This tradition became popular after printed books in the mid-15th century created a need for owners to distinguish between multiple copies of the same book. In the late 19th and early 20th century, collecting reached its peak as people began to view bookplates as miniature works of art. They were valued as much for the artwork as for what the plates portrayed about the book owners.

In Europe, wood and copper engravings, etchings, and serigraphs were popular among designers.  Eastern European artists produced especially distinctive book plate designs due to the region’s rich tradition of graphic arts, artistic experimentation, and dramatic social upheaval. The independence of Bochořáková-Dittrichová’s homeland, Czechoslovakia, after nearly 400 years of Austro-Hungarian rule, inspired artists and writers to create a national image influenced by Expressionist, Surrealist, Constructivist, Art Nouveau, Futurist, and Art Deco movements popular throughout Europe during that time.

Books for Young People, Ex libris Mor.zem. ústavu nevidomých v Brne; Woodcut engraving (left), and Birthplace, Ex libris Anka Součková; Woodcut engraving (right)

Books for Young People, Ex libris Mor.zem. ústavu nevidomých v Brne; Woodcut engraving (left), and Birthplace, Ex libris Anka Součková; Woodcut engraving (right)

Despite these trends, Bochořáková-Dittrichová’s work, at least in the material that the library currently owns, seems to focus on domestic scenes, life stories, religion, and history from abroad. Did she deliberately avoid creating darker works that expressed oppression and nationalistic ambitions? As the library continues to collect material on and by this important graphic artist, it will be interesting to find out.

All are welcome to look at these beautiful bookplates and the other materials by Bochořáková-Dittrichová. If you’re touring the museum, the library makes a great starting point on the 4th floor. Interesting exhibitions feature archival manuscripts, personal papers by women artists, rare books, and artist’s books. Reference Desk staff are always happy to answer questions and offer assistance. Open to the public weekdays 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1 p.m.–5 p.m.   

—Jennifer Page is the Library Assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

“Greetings” from the Archive

Between the years 1910 and 1915, American painter, illustrator, and printmaker Dulah Evans Krehbiel, along with artisans called the “Ridge Craft Girls,” designed a line of greeting cards.

Dulah Evans Krehbiel card, The Ridge Crafts, Parkridge Illinois 1911; National Museum of Women in the Arts Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center

Dulah Evans Krehbiel card, The Ridge Crafts, Parkridge Illinois 1911; National Museum of Women in the Arts Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center

Originally created for the Park Ridge Art Colony, the sample sales book of these cards, containing hand-painted greeting cards, place cards, and book plates, is now in the archival collection of the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center. With the holiday season approaching, the Library has taken on its first digitization project, making these beautiful cards accessible online to help spread the cheer and maybe even strike up inspiration for viewers’ holiday cards.

Dulah Marie Evans Krehbiel circa 1908

Dulah Marie Evans Krehbiel circa 1908

Dulah Marie Evans was born on February 17, 1875, to David and Marie Ogg Evans, pioneer residents of Oskaloosa, Iowa. She graduated from The Art Institute of Chicago and completed her postgraduate work at the Art Students League in New York, where she won many first-place awards in illustration. She later studied at the New York School of Art under William Merritt Chase.

In 1906 she moved her studio to Park Ridge, Illinois, after marrying fellow Art Institute student Albert Krehbiel. Dulah and Albert were part of the Park Ridge Art Colony, a group whose goal was to create a society that would work for the encouragement of artistic culture. This colony is where Dulah Krehbiel and the Ridge Craft group designed and produced their line of greeting cards. These detailed and ornate engraved images and colored lithographs were designed by Krehbiel and hand painted by the Ridge Craft Girls. The set of 194 cards contain beautiful, delicate drawings, vivid colors, and incredible detail that evoke holiday cheer.

Dulah Evans Krehbiel card, The Ridge Crafts, Parkridge Illinois 1911; National Museum of Women in the Arts Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center

Dulah Evans Krehbiel, who had become known as the “Park Ridge Modernist,” died on July 24, 1951, but her work lives on in galleries across the country and in the archives of the LRC.

Check out the library’s flickr and pinterest pages, take a look at these charming cards, and share them with your loved ones this holiday season!

—Molly Krost is the Library and Research Center intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Behind the Scenes in the Registrar’s Office: Crates, Notes, and Dust Motes

Visitors to the National Museum of Women in the Arts have no doubt seen Anne Vallayer-Coster’s majestic portrait of Madame de Saint-Huberty in the Role of Dido, which currently hangs on the east wall of the mezzanine level. However, many do not understand the behind-the-scenes work involved in the preservation of this grand painting. While interning in the office of the registrar this summer, I learned about the various ways in which the office safeguards and organizes nearly 5,000 works in the collection.

Cleaning-Madame-de-Saint-Huberty_webBelieve it or not, dusting is one of the most important preventive measures undertaken by the registrars. Dust hardens like cement, so these pesky particles can actually damage objects if ignored for too long. On one afternoon, I learned how to gently remove the dust that had accumulated within the intricate floral frame surrounding Madame de Saint-Huberty in the Role of Dido. With slow and careful strokes, I brushed the dust of the small crevices, guiding it into the hose of a special low-suction HEPA vacuum positioned a safe distance from the surface of the painting. My brush never actually touched the surface of the paint, though. You may notice that many works are framed with a layer of glass in front, which shields the art from damaging debris. Even small measures like these can ensure a work’s long-term safety.

The registrars also carefully control the environment of the museum, for changes in temperature and humidity can have harmful effects on art. While we removed Madame de Saint-Huberty and other works for routine cleaning, the museum’s chief preparator improved the insulation inside the walls of the gallery space, guaranteeing that the paintings would be in a more protective environment. In fact, a temperature-controlled storage vault houses the majority of the museum’s collection inside massive crates, ceiling-high filing systems, and cocoons of bubble wrap. Only three percent of the collection’s 4,800 works are actually on display!

After routine care, Anne Vallayer-Coster's painting was returned to its place on the gallery wall for visitors to enjoy; Photo Daniel Schwartz

After routine care, Anne Vallayer-Coster’s painting was returned to its place on the gallery wall for visitors to enjoy; Photo Daniel Schwartz

While working within the maze of art storage, I began to realize that keeping accurate records is equally as important as ensuring the physical safety of the collection. After all, how could we study a sculpture without knowing the basic information about it, or even where to locate it? For the past year, the office of the registrar has been working on a collections inventory to ensure the intellectual safety of the objects. Throughout the summer, I helped photograph, measure, and document hundreds of works on paper, knowing that all of this information would allow future scholars to better understand them.

Working behind the scenes these past few months has given me a greater appreciation for the importance of safeguarding the physical and intellectual well-being of the art. After all, without preservation, education would not be possible. Visitors walk through NMWA’s gallery spaces because they want to learn about the groundbreaking accomplishments of women artists. The dedicated efforts of registrars and collections managers ensure that this experience may happen.

—Amy Root was a summer 2014 intern in the registrar’s office at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Click here to learn more about interning at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NMWA by the Numbers

While traveling abroad in the 1960s, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband, Wallace, admired art by 17th-century Flemish painter Clara Peeters. Returning to the U.S., they discovered that none of the leading art history textbooks referenced Peeters or any other female artist. Inspired to rediscover this lost heritage, the Holladays began acquiring works by women artists and amassing a library of research and archival materials. From these collections, Holladay established the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in 1981; the museum’s doors opened in 1987.

Founded to redefine traditional histories of art, NMWA exhibits, preserves, acquires, and researches art by women and teaches the public about their accomplishments. Take a look at NMWA by the numbers.

$0
Cost of admission on the first Sunday of every month, as a part of NMWA’s free community days.

1
NMWA is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to recognizing women’s creative contributions.

10
Number of artists featured in the current special exhibition Total Art: Contemporary Video.

19
Countries represented by NMWA’s international members.

27
Women artists identified in the current edition of Janson’s Basic History of Western Art (9th Edition)—up from zero in the 1970s.

59
High-resolution images of artwork in NMWA’s collection presented on the Google Art Project beginning in March 2014. The resolution of these images, combined with a custom-built zoom viewer, allows art lovers to discover minute aspects of paintings they may have never seen up close before.

114
Issues of Women in the Arts magazine produced and published by NMWA, which began as a newsletter in the summer of 1983, four years prior to the public opening of the museum.

273
Special exhibitions presented by NMWA celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing and literary arts.

1987
The year NMWA opened to the public.

2,855
Average hours worked per year by NMWA’s dedicated volunteers.

061614_PhotobyDakotaFine_Gallery27

Photography by Dakota Fine

4,500
Objects preserved and displayed in NMWA’s collection.

14,000
Volumes maintained at the NMWA’s Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center.

15,000+
NMWA members around the world representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

18,620
Miles to Australia, home to the NMWA member who lives the farthest away.

78,810
Square feet of the main building housing NMWA, originally a Masonic temple, purchased in 1983.

400,000
The number of people served by NMWA’s education programs.

$50 million
The endowment goal reached for the Legacy of Women in the Arts campaign during NMWA’s 25th anniversary.

7 billion
Pixels contained in the Google Art Project’s high-resolution photograph of Rachel Ruysch’s Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge (ca. 1680s).

Detail of Rachel Ruysch’s painting—click here to see more of NMWA’s art on the Google Art Project

Detail of Rachel Ruysch’s painting—see more of NMWA’s art on the Google Art Project

There’s just one NMWA, the only museum solely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing, and literary arts. The museum’s collection features 4,500 works from the 16th century to the present created by more than 1,000 artists, including Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Alma Thomas, Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, Chakaia Booker, and Nan Goldin, along with collections of artists’ books, 18th-century silver tableware, and botanical prints.

NMWA is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., in a landmark building near the White House. Come visit: the museum is open Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday, noon–5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for visitors 65 and over and students, and free for NMWA members and youths 18 and under. Free Community Days take place on the first Sunday of each month. For more information about NMWA, call 202-783-5000, visit nmwa.org, Facebook, or Twitter.

Behind-the-Scenes: NMWA Joins the Google Art Project

We were so excited about our March 8 launch on the Google Art Project! A great deal of work went into posting the 59 artworks from NMWA’s collection and the virtual museum tour (and it was a great way to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!). Here is an insider’s glimpse of the process along with some behind-the-scenes pictures:

Photography of NMWA’s Collection:

Google_Stalsworth_Photo_Shoot

Photographer Lee Stalsworth shooting NMWA’s collection; Photo credits: Laura Hoffman

For the Google Art Project, we photographed the selected artworks in extremely high resolution, since a unique facet of the project is its capability to showcase artworks online so that viewers are able to zoom in on hard-to-see details. While our preparator carefully unframed the pieces, art photographer Lee Stalsworth went to great lengths to capture the artworks perfectly, including using a new, state-of-the-art camera, testing the light and color balance with meters, and adjusting the photography environment with light reflectors.

Gigapixel Photo-shoot:

Google_Gigapixel

Google team captures “gigapixel” image (left), artwork detail (right); Photo credit: Laura Hoffman

Google photographed one of the artworks, Rachel Ruysch’s Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge (ca. 1680s), using “gigapixel” photo-capturing technology. The image contains around 7 billion pixels, enabling users to become immersed in the artwork’s details, even those that are invisible to the naked eye. Even the smallest movements, vibrations, or light can throw off the complicated process of capturing the “gigapixel” photograph. Zoom in for yourself on the artwork to find all the insects, flora, and grains of pollen!

Museum View Virtual Tour:

Google_Museum_View_Shoot

Google team moving through the museum with the “trolley;” Photo credits: Laura Hoffman

NMWA staff also worked with a team at Google to create a virtual tour of the museum, called the Museum View. This feature allows people to explore our galleries online, select artworks that interest them, click to discover more, and dive into high-resolution images, where available. Google’s specially-designed Street View “trolley” took 360-degree images of selected galleries, which were then digitally stitched together to create smooth navigation within the museum.

We hope you enjoy our work in the Google Art Project—stay tuned as we add more artworks and galleries to the Google Art Project in the future!

—Laura Hoffman is the digital media specialist at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Louise Moillon: Still Lifes and Saint-Germain (Part 2 of 2)

Click here for Part 1 of 2!

Louise Moillon’s work became known to the public in 1629 when her stepfather, François Garnier, was invited to exhibit his work in Grenoble. Betraying her professional ambitions, Louise begged her stepfather to display one of her paintings alongside his. Garnier balked, but Moillon’s mother interceded on her daughter’s behalf, insisting that one painting depicting a bowl of peaches be shown in Grenoble. To Garnier’s shock, the painting sold immediately, and Moillon’s artistic star rose from then on. She produced more paintings, began selling them commercially, and earned a reputation as a talented, precise artist. Although the exact number of her paintings is unknown, she was prolific: an inventory of Moillon’s mother’s possessions at the time of her death in 1630 shows 13 paintings in her mother’s collection alone, when Louise was just 20 years old.

Louise Moillon, Cup of Cherries and Melon, 1633; Louvre Museum

Louise Moillon, Cup of Cherries and Melon, 1633; Louvre Museum

Moillon’s preferred medium was oil paint, usually on small wooden panels. However, she began working on a larger scale in the 1630s, incorporating human figures into her work. Having never received formal artistic training, Moillon became the pupil of Abraham Bosse (1604–1676), an artist and instructor at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Curiously, Bosse’s depictions of men and women have been characterized as stiff and awkward; a quick glance at many of Moillon’s still-lifes incorporating human figures—usually sturdy, strong women hauling baskets of fruit, like those seen in At the Market Stall, n.d.—suggests that Moillon’s portrayals were similarly rigid. This is perhaps also because, as a woman artist, she lacked access to live models. Nevertheless, Moillon successfully included depictions of people in her still-lifes without sacrificing the genre: the fruits and vegetables always take center stage as the subject of the paintings, with human figures of secondary visual interest.

Unlike many of her still-life predecessors, Moillon’s paintings do not appear to hint at the eventual decay of the fruit depicted. Prevalent in Dutch and Flemish painting, this expected subtlety lent moral undertones hinting at the fleeting nature of life. Such a technique was considered a viable alternative for Protestant artists to incorporate messages of morality, since they eschewed the overt, figural religious art commissioned for the Catholic Church. Moillon’s apparent lack of moral and metaphorical intent suggests that she abandoned this Protestant tradition in order to appeal to a largely Catholic French clientele, or, alternatively, that as a patriotic French woman grateful for religious freedom and aware of widespread religious persecutions, she wanted to produce paintings free from the trappings of religion. Moillon’s paintings appear soundly secular, intended to adorn homes and chateaux with naturalistic portrayals of nature.

Louise Moillon, A Market Stall, ca. 1630; NMWA Collection; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Louise Moillon, A Market Stall, ca. 1630; NMWA Collection; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Unthinkably for a woman of her time, Moillon became an artistic sensation in France, earning the support of prestigious clients at home and abroad. It is believed that King Louis XIII (1601–1643), upon hearing of Moillon’s popularity and her Grenoble peach painting, commissioned a painting depicting fruit and a candelabrum arranged on a table. Another royal to possess works by Moillon was England’s King Charles I, whose art collection in 1639 reportedly included five of her paintings. The artist’s most devoted public fan was likely Claude de Bullion (1569–1640), Louis XIII’s Minister of Finance, who bought many of Moillon’s paintings for himself and for the king. His personal collection included 12 of her paintings, one of which he commissioned for his private residence. In 1640, at age 30, Moillon married Etienne Girardot, a wealthy lumber merchant and devout Protestant. For the next three decades, Moillon dedicated herself to managing her household and raising their three children, producing only one painting dated 1641. In 1648, Girardot died, but Louise did not resume her artistic career until the 1670s, with known works from her last decades dating to 1674 and 1684.

The last 11 years of Moillon’s life were racked by religious strife reflecting the national political scene. In 1685, King Louis XV signed the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, effectively stripping Protestants in France of their religious freedom and threatening them with imprisonment or death. Still staunchly Protestant at age 75 at the time of the Revocation, Louise fled to London with her two daughters, where she learned of her son’s imprisonment in the Bastille for refusing to recant his beliefs (he eventually converted). Louise later returned to France, perhaps under threat of the confiscation of her paintings, where she was apparently compelled to adopt Catholicism: a Protestant bulletin of the time recounts that her son was present when she received the last rites of the Catholic Church on her deathbed. In 1696, Louise succumbed to heart failure.

Boasting one of the most stellar artistic careers in 17th-century France, Louise Moillon played a crucial role in raising the genre of still-life painting to one of the most popular art forms in France. With her minute attention to detail, clever incorporation of human figures, and secular style, Moillon contributed to one of France’s most important cultural peaks, the Grand Siècle of 17th-century art that propelled France to the forefront of European art.

—Raphael Fitzgerald is an art historian and researcher.

Works Consulted:

Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, n.d. Retrieved June 15, 2013, from www.museothyssen.org/en/thyssen/ficha_artista/409

Park, Rebecca (2010). From the Vault: Louise Moillon. Retrieved June 15, 2013, from http://womeninthearts.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/from-the-vault-louise-moillon/

Sowa, Helen (1998). Louise Moillon, Seventeenth Century Still-Life Artist. Chateau Publishing, Inc.

Movies, Masons, and More: The Peculiar Past of NMWA’s Building

NMWA is one of 25 sites in D.C. with the chance to win up to $100,000 from Partners in Preservation (PiP), an initiative of American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Funds from this grant would help finance much-needed roof repairs—not so glamorous-sounding, but necessary—so that NMWA can stay focused on its mission of presenting and promoting fantastic women in the arts!

PiP-1blueprintWith a history as varied as the museum’s collection, NMWA’s building is a work of art in itself. Designed in a Renaissance-revival style, the six-story structure embodies orderliness and civic grandeur. Constructed by one of D.C.’s most prominent architectural firms (and famed architect Waddy Wood), the building was received landmark status in 1984. Purchased by NMWA in 1983, the building opened as a museum in 1987 after extensive renovations.

Ironically, the building was originally constructed as a Masonic Temple—women were not allowed entry.  Masonic symbols, such as carved squares and compasses, can still be seen in the museum’s architecture. The clearest symbols are on the building’s façade, particularly those in a frieze above the fourth floor. Visitors may spot some vestiges within the walls as well.

BuildingDetailBefore showing art, the building showed movies. In 1916, a first-floor theater began showing silent films. In the 1940s and early 1950s the Pix Theater ran racy “exploitation films” until resulting controversies caused their lease not to be renewed. Seven years later, the Town Theatre opened and played blockbuster films like Hitchcock’s Psycho until its closing in 1983.

The wedge-shaped building was also home to several small offices and shops during its first 20 years. A dentist, an insurance agent, and a uniform supply outfitter all operated on the second floor above the movie theater. From 1910 through ’21, the upper floors contained George Washington University’s law library, and a USO canteen was housed in the basement during World War II.

NMWA today

NMWA today

In 1997, the museum incorporated an adjacent property to create the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing. The space now houses NMWA’s gift shop and sculpture gallery—more palatable uses than its past function as the “D.C. Pleasure Parlor.”

Although visitors can’t take advantage of the building’s previous functions by watching movies or getting their teeth cleaned, they can enjoy NMWA’s collection of art by many of the world’s most significant women artists. The building itself is seen as an embodiment of the museum’s mission—it is a place for women artists—and funds for vital roof repairs will ensure the continued integrity of its structure.

Popular votes on social media will determine some of the grants. Voters can chime in for NMWA once every day by registering on the PiP website or logging in on PiP’s Facebook page. By using the hashtag #NMWA in Twitter or Instagram posts, and by checking in on Foursquare, voters can help NMWA earn extra points!

Also, save the date! Drop by on May 5 for an open house and “Raise the Roof” with GirlsRock! DC!

NMWA’s Nordic Cool

In honor of A World Apart: Anna Ancher and the Skagen Art Colony, on view through May 12, 2013, we’re researching other delightful, innovative, and interesting Danish women in the arts. Click here to learn more about NMWA’s current exhibition.

Some of the earliest seeds for NMWA’s current exhibition, A World Apart: Anna Ancher and the Skagen Art Colony, were planted nearly a decade ago when curatorial staff members visited Scandinavia to research Nordic Cool: Hot Women Designers. This exhibition, on view at NMWA during April–September 2004, was a hit, and although it was NMWA’s first-ever design exhibition, it opened the curators’ eyes to Scandinavian women artists such as fascinating Danish painter Anna Ancher.

Women in the Arts magazine cover, Spring 2004, with Nanna Ditzel's "Bench for Two," 1989

Women in the Arts magazine cover, Spring 2004, with Nanna Ditzel’s “Bench for Two,” 1989

Several of the Danish designers whose work was on view at NMWA were creating domestic-use products that addressed gender roles—such as Johnna Sølvsten Bak’s tablecloth with “iron burns incorporated into the design” as Jordana Pomeroy described in the spring 2004 issue of Women in the Arts magazine. Another example, “Danish industrial design team PAPCoRN (Lene Vad Jensen and Anne Bannick)…created compostable dinnerware from corn by-products.”

Of furniture by Nanna Ditzel—pieces with “curvilinear structures [that] would be as comfortable in a gallery as in a living room”—Pomeroy said, “Ultimately design is highly personal, often bearing traces of the artist’s hand, reflecting the proportions of the designer’s body, and deriving from the most intimate emotional memories. Ditzel’s designs flow with the human body while simultaneously drawing on other natural sources: seashells, coral, flowers, and butterflies.”

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

From the Archives: Catharina Baart Biddle

The Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts recently accepted an archival donation from the estate of artist Catharina Baart Biddle (1912–2005). The wealth of archival material includes correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, and many other artifacts that shed light on the life of this notable Washington arts supporter and female painter.

Catharina Baart Biddle (n.d.)

Catharina Baart Biddle (n.d.)

Born in the Netherlands, Biddle came to the U.S. at age 12 and grew up on Long Island. She had been influenced at an early age by famous Dutch artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Her work reveals their inspiration, featuring great emphasis on light, shadow, and color. After receiving an M.F.A. from The George Washington University, Biddle turned down a job offer from the school and decided to return to Europe. She spent several years traveling and painting, spending time in Greece, North Africa, and France—even learning from Picasso, Dufy, and Matisse.

Eventually missing the freedom of thought afforded by American life, Biddle returned to the U.S. at the start of World War II, where she received her second M.F.A. from American University. She went on to work in the education department at the National Gallery of Art and then taught in Washington, D.C., public schools for more than 20 years. Dedicated to her mission of furthering arts education, Biddle endowed a fund for undergraduates at American University in 2002. In 1973 she married Livingston Biddle, who drafted the legislation creating the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities. While her husband was serving as the third Chairman of the NEA under President Carter, Biddle was an avid NEA volunteer.

NMWA has significant ties to the Biddle family. The Biddles were members of the NMWA Foundation Board. In 2002, Biddles helped endow a gallery at NMWA called the International Gallery. The donation was intended as a tribute to her husband and their passion for the arts.

“But every artist has a special individuality,” she says, “and the artist’s work should be evolving. To do the very best you can at a given moment, and to learn from it, that is the essence of my work.”
—Catharina Baart Biddle

The LRC has begun processing this collection, and it is available for researcher use. The archival material dates throughout the entirety of Biddle’s life, especially her earlier years. Although there is a wide range of material, a majority of the collection consists of photographs and correspondence. There are a number of travel photographs in particular, including many from Poland, as well as letters to loved ones such as her sister, Mary, and Livingston Biddle. The collection provides fascinating insight into the life of this extraordinary woman.

—Eva Richardson is a former Library and Research Center intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.