Investing in Female Artists

By Kate McQuaid

Portrait of Madame De Genlis (1746-1830) by Marie-Victoire Lemoine (Signed and dated center right: Vic. Lemoine / 1781. Oil on canvas; property from “A Distinguished American Collection;” estimate $60/80,000 from “The Female Triumphant” show at Sotheby’s.)

In the early 1970s on a trip to Venice, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay purchased a still life painted by Clara Peeters, a contemporary of Rembrandt’s. Captivated, Holladay tried to research Peeters and found very little. The painting was an early piece in an extensive collection of work by women, which would lead led Holladay and her husband Wallace to found the National Museum of Women in the Arts, opening in 1987.

It wasn’t until 2016 that Peeters had her first monographic show at the Museo del Prado—the Prado’s first exhibition devoted to a woman painter.

“The value of her work has gone up, not only on the market, but recognizing the value of her style of painting,” says Virginia Treanor, associate curator at NMWA. “She was among the first to do what are known as breakfast paintings—a catchall term for still life paintings of food.”

Women artists—from old masters to those just out of art school—have slowly gained traction in museums and on the art market for years. If you’re thinking of collecting art by women, now is the time. This year appears to be a watershed.

“Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future,” an exhibition of work by the Swedish modernist that closed in April, shattered records at the Guggenheim, pulling in 600,000 viewers…

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Featured image: Installation view: “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 12, 2018–April 23, 2019. (Photographer: David Heald/©2018 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)


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