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Sculpture: An Art Without Women?
Major Questions in Art History
12.06.2020 | Nina Meisel

Marta Pan, Lentilles flottantes, 1994, casted resin, Ø 210 cm x 105 cm, Ø 82.7 x 41.4 in., Courtesy Galerie Mitterrand, © Fondation Marta Pan-André Wogenscky

Camille Claudel (1864-1943) appears to be the embodiment of French female sculptors, yet she was not the exception to the rule, as women have sculpted and continue to sculpt today. Sculpture is a costly, technical and psychical practice, yet that has not stopped women from investing in it. At the beginning of the twentieth century financial pressures pushed female creators to sell their works by engaging with fashionable trends such as bestiaries, as was the case for Jane Poupelet (1874-1932) and Renée Sintenis (1888-1965), who made reputations for themselves in the art world.

Certain women took up chisels to respond to official commissions that allowed them to work with large-scale stones and to durably inscribe their works into public space. In Buenos Aires the Fuente de las Nereidas (1903) was made by Lola Mora (1867-1936), one of the best-known female Argentinian sculptors. Symbol of the Stalinist regime, erected for the USSR Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris, Worker and Kolkhoz Woman by Vera Ignatyevna Mukhina (1889-1953) is also a good example of a monumental and public sculpture realised by a woman. In these exercises, some women compete with men, such as Anna Semyonovna Golubkina (1864-1927) as she sculpted one of the doors of the Muscovite opera house in a clear response to the Gates of Hell of her French master Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). (It was also through representing important personalities of their time that these sculptors became well-known: A. Golubkina realised a portrait gallery amongst including poet and writer Andrei Bely (1907). As for Ausgusta Sauvage (1892-1962), she sculpted in clay the illustrious faces of the African American community.

Women artists also initiated a reflection on the artworks’ environment. Germaine Richier (1902-1959) maintained a classical approach to the body and played with the plinth, which became its constituent element. At the same time, Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) was interested in the ovoid forms she fashioned from industrial materials. This innovation changed the artist’s relationship to the material: stone was cut, plastic was bent, steel was twisted. Artworks adapted and responded to the spaces in which they were installed. Marta Pan (1923-2008) played with double reflections in water and metal, whereas Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916-2017) realised sculptures that could be transposed into various materials – wood, stone, metal, terracotta and fiberglass – and whose scale ranged from the minuscule to the monumental.

Questions about form and the body have inhabited both modern and contemporary women sculptors who have made it a powerful tool for dissent. This can be seen not only in the work of Tayeba Begum Lipi (b. 1969), who projected her own face onto mannequins wearing niqabs and chadors in her installation Toys Are Watching Toys (2002) to denounce the Islamisation of Bangladeshi society. It is also evident in the work of Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964), where suffering bodies made of pale wax are adorned with elements of Christian iconography, such as the long hair of Mary Magdalene.

Recently, the work of Marie Orensanz (b. 1936) has benefited from renewed recognition as she was awarded the AWARE 2020 Outstanding Merit Prize. Today the work of female sculptors have recognition and have been celebrated in exhibitions such as Sculpture’Elles : Les sculpteurs femme du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours (2011) at the Musée des Années 30 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, as well as in Anne Rivière’s publication Dictionnaire des sculptrices en France (2018) that inventories the work of many women artists who remain little known.

Artists
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1864 — 1943 | France
Camille Claudel - AWARE

Camille Claudel

1874 — 1932 | France
Jane Poupelet - AWARE

Jane Poupelet

1888 — Poland | 1965 — Germany
Renée Sintenis - AWARE

Renée Sintenis

1867 — 1936 | Argentina
Lola Mora - AWARE

Lola Mora

1889 — Latvia | 1953 — Russia
Vera Ignatevna  Moukhina - AWARE

Vera Ignatevna Moukhina

1864 — 1927 | Russia
Anna Goloubkina - AWARE

Anna Goloubkina

1902 — 1959 | France
Germaine Richier - AWARE

Germaine Richier

1903 — 1975 | United Kingdom
Barbara Hepworth - AWARE

Barbara Hepworth

1923 — Hungary | 2008 — France
Marta Pan - AWARE

Marta Pan

1916 — 2017 | Lebanon
Saloua Raouda  Choucair - AWARE

Saloua Raouda Choucair

1969 | Bangladesh
Tayeba Begum Lipi - AWARE

Tayeba Begum Lipi

1964 | Belgium
Berlinde De Bruyckere - AWARE

Berlinde De Bruyckere

1936 | Argentina
Marie Orensanz - AWARE

Marie Orensanz

1911 — Chile | 1952 — France
Juana Muller - AWARE

Juana Muller

1922 — 2019 | Iran
Monir Shahroudy  Farmanfarmaian - AWARE

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

1874 — Poland | 1927 — France
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven - AWARE

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

1888 — Ukraine | 1968 — Israel
Chana Orloff - AWARE

Chana Orloff

1894 — 1973 | Brazil
Maria Martins - AWARE

Maria Martins

1953 | Bolivia
Carmen Perrin - AWARE

Carmen Perrin

1892 — 1962 | United States
Augusta Savage - AWARE

Augusta Savage

1869 — 1940 | United States
Janet Scudder - AWARE

Janet Scudder

1911 — Denmark | 1984 — France
Sonja Ferlov Mancoba - AWARE

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba

1963 — France | 1946 — ?
Marcelle Renée Lancelot-Croce - AWARE

Marcelle Renée Lancelot-Croce

1877 — 1967 | France
Geneviève Granger - AWARE

Geneviève Granger

1836 — Switzerland | 1879 — Italy
Marcello (Adèle d’Affry, duchesse de Castiglione Colonna, dite) - AWARE

Marcello (Adèle d’Affry, duchesse de Castiglione Colonna, dite)

1844 — 1923 | France
Sarah  Bernhardt - AWARE

Sarah Bernhardt

1825 — 1909 | France
Hélène Bertaux - AWARE

Hélène Bertaux

1828 — 1888 | France
Claude Vignon (Marie-Noémi Cadiot-Constant Rouvier, dite) - AWARE

Claude Vignon (Marie-Noémi Cadiot-Constant Rouvier, dite)

1844 — 1924 | France
Marie Cazin - AWARE

Marie Cazin

1878 — 1954 | Germany
Clara Rilke-Westhoff - AWARE

Clara Rilke-Westhoff

1859 — 1926 | France
Blanche Adèle Moria - AWARE

Blanche Adèle Moria

1940 | United States
Nancy Grossman - AWARE

Nancy Grossman

1971 | United States
Shinique Smith - AWARE

Shinique Smith

1969 | Mexico
Paula Santiago - AWARE

Paula Santiago

1894 — 1974 | Italy
Regina Cassolo Bracchi - AWARE

Regina Cassolo Bracchi

1970 | Brazil
Lídia Lisboa - AWARE

Lídia Lisboa

1926 — 2013 | United States
Ruth Asawa - AWARE

Ruth Asawa

1964 | Argentina
Nicola Costantino - AWARE

Nicola Costantino

1948 | United States
Joyce J. Scott - AWARE

Joyce J. Scott

1961 | Jamaica
Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - AWARE

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan

1902 — Germany | 1998 — Israel
Hedwig Grossmann Lehmann - AWARE

Hedwig Grossmann Lehmann

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