Challenge Accepted: Can You Name Five Women Artists?

Ask someone to name five artists and responses will likely include names such as Warhol, Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, da Vinci—all male artists. Ask someone to name five women artists, and the question poses more of a challenge.

Back by popular demand this March, the National Museum of Women in the Arts continues to ask, “Can you name five women artists?” This simple question calls attention to the inequity women artists face, inspires conversation, and brings awareness to a larger audience. Last year, the campaign struck a chord, and tens of thousands of posts were shared on social media. This year, more than 200 institutions from 50 states, 22 countries, and seven continents have already signed on to participate.

Join us throughout the month to share stories of women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Challenge your family and friends.
  2. Share posts about your favorite women artists.
  3. Share a work by a woman artist at a museum or gallery near you.
  4. Explore NMWA’s artist profiles to discover artists you may not know.
  5. Get the facts about art world inequality and track campaign updates all month long.

To kick off the month, learn more about five influential women artists from the museum’s collection who defied expectations:

Left to right: Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman (ca. 1580) and Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Jar (ca. 1939); NMWA; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Left to right: Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 1580 and Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Jar, ca. 1939; NMWA; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Renaissance painter Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) is regarded as the first professional woman artist. For 20 years beginning in the 1580s, Fontana was the portraitist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen. Not only was Fontana the breadwinner of her family, she also gave birth to 11 children.

For more than eight decades, Maria Martinez (1887–1980) revived and continued the centuries-old black-on-black pottery traditions of San Ildefonso Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Through her creative vision and skill, Martinez influenced generations of artists.

Left to right: Clementine Hunter, Untitled, 1981; NMWA, Gift of Evelyn M. Shambaugh; Lola Álvarez Bravo, De generación en generación, ca. 1950; NMWA, Gift of the Artist; © 1995 University of Arizona Foundation, Center for Creative Photography

Entirely self-taught and immensely prolific, Clementine Hunter (ca. 1887–1988) earned critical acclaim for vibrant paintings depicting life in the Cane River region of central Louisiana. Hunter did not start painting until the 1940s, when she was already a grandmother.

Lola Álvarez Bravo (1907–1993) was one of Mexico’s first professional women photographers, documenting daily life and portraying prominent world leaders. Like her friend Frida Kahlo, Álvarez Bravo celebrated the traditional costumes and customs of her country’s varied regions. She cannily blended nationalist content with the expression of universal human emotions.

Lee Krasner, The Springs, 1964; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © 2012 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Lee Krasner (1908–1984) was one of the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. Through six decades devoted to art, she explored innovative approaches to painting and collage. Often overshadowed by her husband, Krasner declared, “I’m always going to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock . . . but I painted before Pollock, during Pollock, after Pollock.”

Want to help advocate for women in the arts? Starting March 1, take the challenge and post about #5WomenArtists on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and tag us @WomenInTheArts.

Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

March Madness: A Digital Dive into Women’s History Month

NMWA’s year-round mission is to address gender imbalance in the art world, but every March—Women’s History Month—the museum has an opportunity to catch the attention of a wider audience to celebrate women artists. This March, NMWA launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of women artists by asking, “Can you name five women artists?”

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NMWA’s social media campaign for Women’s History Month

A huge community joined in!

  • Art museums, libraries, galleries, and art lovers from 20 countries answered by sharing and tagging their favorite women artists.
  • News outlets like the Huffington Post and the Atlantic helped spread the challenge.
  • More than 370 cultural organizations and 11,000 individuals joined the campaign to promote women artists.
  • More than 3,300 Instagram posts and more than 23,000 tweets used the hashtag #5womenartists.

During the campaign, NMWA’s number of digital followers increased by 140% on Instagram, 19% on Facebook, and 12% on Twitter. At least 60 individuals and cultural institutions wrote personal blog posts about the challenge, in English as well as Spanish, Italian, Turkish, and Estonian. NMWA’s blog post launching the campaign was read almost 2,000 times.

“We are delighted with the overwhelming response to the #5womenartists campaign,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “By calling attention to the inequity women artists face today, the Women’s Museum is gratified to have inspired even more conversation and awareness than we anticipated. We thank all of the cultural organizations and social media users who joined us in this important initiative.”

Overall, March was filled with exciting digital endeavors to bolster the visibility of women artists. Thirty-five participants attended NMWA’s fourth annual Wikipedia-edit-a-thon, part of the Art + Feminism initiative to improve Wikipedia’s gender imbalance. Using the museum’s resources, contributors improved 20 existing articles and created new entries for Hungarian-born Mexican photographer Kati Horna, silversmith and jewelry designer Alma Eikerman, and drafted information for the Association of San Francisco Women Artists.

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An #EmptyNMWA instameet participant snaps a photo of a painting by Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes

For International Women’s Day on March 8, NMWA captured tweets and posts from people around the world celebrating #5womenartists. The museum also hosted a before-hours instameet for a group of 30 local photographers to tour, snap photos, and explore the museum’s galleries.

For each week of 2016, a different museum across the globe takes over the @52museums Instagram account. March 21–27, @womeninthearts brought stories about the museum and women artists to a broader digital public. To finish the month, the museum also participated in #MuseumWeek, the first worldwide cultural event on Twitter, and shared the building’s history, collection, exhibitions, and advocacy programs.

During the last week, nearly 5,000 people viewed the museum’s BuzzFeed quiz, which asked, “Which of these #5womenartists are you?” So, can you name #5womenartists? In a Twitter poll, 83% of NMWA followers said yes! Next year, we’re aiming for 100%.

Want to continue to advocate for women in the arts? Follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Visit the museum, become a member, and get involved in upcoming programs.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Women’s History Month: Can You Name #5womenartists?

Did you know that even though women make up 51% of visual artists today, in the U.S. only 5% of work on museum walls is by women? It is no surprise that if you ask someone to name five artists, they will likely list prominent male artists.

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Share social media posts with #5womenartists; Photo: Laura Hoffman, NMWA

This March, for Women’s History Month, NMWA leads a social media campaign to help everyone answer the question, Can you name five women artists? Join the museum and other institutions, including the National Gallery of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Guggenheim Bilbao, to share stories of women artists using the hashtag #5womenartists on Twitter and Instagram. Find out more about the initiative in this artnet article.

Are you interested in participating? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Challenge your friends and family to name five women artists.
  2. Tell us who your favorite women artists are and why.
  3. Share a work by a woman artist at a museum or gallery near you.
  4. Explore NMWA’s artist profiles to discover artists you may not know.
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Left to right: Artwork by Alma Thomas, Rosalba Carriera, Maria Sibylla Merian, Hester Bateman, and Frida Kahlo; Photos: NMWA

To kick off the month, learn more about five women artists from the museum’s collection who broke barriers and influenced future generations:

In 1921, Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891–1978) was the first fine arts student to graduate from Howard University in Washington, D.C. During her 35-year career as a teacher at a D.C. junior high school, she was devoted to her students and organized art clubs, lectures, and student exhibitions.

Rosalba Carriera (1675–1757), a member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, was responsible for elevating the status of pastel from its use for sketches to a respected medium in its own right. Over the span of its existence, the Academy, which had approximately 450 members in total, only admitted 15 women.

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Visitors examine Petah Coyne’s work; Photo: Laura Hoffman, NMWA

At the age of 52, Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717) and her young daughter embarked on a risky trip to the Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. She recorded indigenous flora and fauna and helped 18th-century scientists understand metamorphosis.

Hester Bateman (1709–1794) inherited her husband’s silver workshop after he died. She made the business profitable and her descendants helped the workshop thrive until the mid-19th century. The key to her success was the integration of modern technology with classical design—a cost-effective way to attract middle-class buyers.

Referenced in her New York Times obituary as the “wife of Diego Rivera, the noted painter,” Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) soared in fame posthumously. She became the first 20th-century Mexican artist to have work acquired by the Louvre. In the 1980s, numerous books were published about her work by feminist art historians and others.

Stacy Meteer is the communications and marketing associate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.