Tate Britain shines light on trailblazing female artists

Tate Britain is paying homage to the often-overlooked contributions of female artists in the history of British art in a groundbreaking exhibition, per euronews.com. The exhibition, titled “Now You See Us,” features 110 female artists and 238 works, spanning from Tudor Britain to the early 20th century.

Curated by Tabitha Barber, the exhibition aims to correct historical oversights that favoured male artists, highlighting the perseverance and talent of women who defied societal expectations. “This exhibition charts the road women artists over 400 years have been on, acting as professionals in a society that didn’t expect that of them. They were constantly told that they couldn’t and shouldn’t. And I think in every single room of this exhibition, you have women who are proving the precise opposite,” Barber explains.

The journey begins with Artemisia Gentileschi’s powerful “Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting,” dating from 1638–39, reflecting her significant impact during her time at the court of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Gentileschi’s narrative embodies the struggles female artists faced, illustrated by the recent proper identification of her work “Susanna and the Elders” only in 2023.

The exhibition also features works by Flemish miniature painters Susanna Horenbout and Levina Teerlinc, whose contributions are internationally recognized but often misattributed. Botanical still lifes by Clara Maria Pope and Mary Delany underscore the scientific contributions of female artists, while Mary Beale’s portraits offer intimate glimpses into Restoration-era life.

A standout piece is Angelica Kauffman’s commission for the Royal Academy’s Council Chamber, a poignant symbol of her achievements in a male-dominated institution. Barber notes, “When you get to the 20th century, I think that’s where the problem starts. It’s almost as if the very time when art history itself becomes an academic discipline, this inherited notion that women were genteel amateurs and their work was therefore less good, and therefore they were not a subject for proper study.”

“Now You See Us” is a testament to the resilience and brilliance of female artists, providing overdue recognition and redefining their place in art history. The exhibition is a must-see, offering a profound and enlightening experience for all art enthusiasts.


•Featured image shows Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting’ by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1638–39/Todd-White Art Photography/Royal Collection Trust


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