9 Pioneering Female Artists to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

In the midst of Women’s History Month, March 8th marks International Women’s Day. As great admirers of art, we’d love nothing more than to acknowledge the female artists who’ve led the way, honoring their iconic and influential impact on a day like today. There are notable women like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe, household names we know and love; yet, there are also women whose names don’t often ring a familiar tone in one’s ear or make a notable enough presence in Art History textbooks. All of these women, whether they be iconic names heard for generations or a whispered legend within a powerful movement, are as talented as they are diverse.

Media company Evolve is also honoring this day by collaborating with The Girls' Lounge to start a movement called March Forward (or #MarchForward). This initiative aims to raise awareness about the #equalpay movement, and thereby aid in closing the gender pay gap. (The "gender pay gap" refers to the disparity in wages between women and men, which been recorded as a woman making 77 cents for every $1 that’s made by a man. To symbolize this gender wage gap, all Evolve media homepages will have images that are 23% gray.)

No matter how you honor women on this day, allow us to help you celebrate by offering a brief introduction of just some of the women in art who have made our planet a more creative place.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter known for her self-portraits that realistically depicted the female form. In addition to her expressive portraits, Kahlo also included symbolic elements of Mexican culture and tradition in her work. The iconic artist once said, “I don’t paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality.”

(Photos via Gisle Freund ; Early Women Masters)

Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson first became known during the 1980s, when her large-scale, photograph-and-text works challenged conventional views of race, gender, culture, history, and identity. Since then, Simpson has continued to examine the relationships and connections that make up modern America. “I've always done exactly what I wanted to do, regardless of what was out there,” the artist told BOMB Magazine. “I just stuck to that principle and I'm a much happier person as a result.”

(Alien Magazine; Lorna Simpson)

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama has tremendously influenced the pop art, feminist, and minimalism movements. With her immersive, visionary installations, she continues to delight those who have the opportunity to experience her artwork. Kusama is also seen as one of the most important, living artists to come out of Japan. “All of my works are steps on my journey, a struggle for truth that I have waged with pen, canvas, and materials,” she states.

(Photos via Victoria Miro Gallery)

Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe has been awarded the prestigious title of “Mother of American modernism.” She is known for her bold works depicting fluid flowers, New York-based skyscrapers, and the skies of New Mexico. O’Keeffe powerfully asserted, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”

(Photos via Georgia O’Keeffe Museum; GeorgiaOkeeffe.net)

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter wore many hats. She was an illustrator, a natural scientist, an author, and a conservationist who greatly impacted the art world with her endearing children’s illustrations. The Tale of Petter Rabbit is just one of Potter’s many works that have delighted kids and adults alike for centuries. Her poetic advice: “Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.”

(Photos via Victoria and Albert Museum; Bio)

Lyubov Popova

Lyubov Popova was a pioneering figure during the abstract art movement of the early 20th-century. She also helped shape avant-garde art in Russia and spent a lot of time perfecting her Cubist style. “No artistic success has given me such satisfaction as the sight of a peasant or a worker buying a length of material designed by me” is one of her only known quotes.

(Photos via The Charnel-House; Wikimedia Commons)

Mary Edmonia Lewis

Mary Edmonia Lewis was the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to be recognized as a sculptor in the world of fine art. She is known for using a Neoclassical style to portray Native American and African-American people. Lewis asserted, “I thought of returning to wild life again; but my love of sculpture forbade it.”

(Photos via Henry Rocher; Southern Journeys)

Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse helped to introduce the post-minimal art movement of the 1960s. She was also a trailblazer when it came to using plastics, latex, and fiberglass in her artwork. With these simple materials at her disposal, Hesse portrayed a wide range of emotional themes. The artist declared, “In my inner soul, art and life are inseparable.”

(Photos via WideWalls; Art History 207)

Julia Margaret Cameron

Though she wasn’t appreciated during her own time, Julia Margaret Cameron has greatly influenced modern photographers. Using a soft focus and heroic aesthetic, she captured many 19th-century celebrities’ portraits and acted as the Annie Leibovitz of that era. She spoke of her art form by saying, “From the first moment, I handled my lens with a tender ardor.”

(Photos via Julia Cameron; Wikimedia Commons)

What other female artists will you be celebrating during Women’s History Month?

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