Paintings of Women that Shaped the World

10 Most Influential Paintings of Women

The female body is one of the oldest and most commonly depicted motifs in visual arts. Few famous paintings of women had a profound influence on the world of art. Popular culture that graced them with remarkable fame and admiration to the current day. In this article, you will examine 10 historically-significant paintings of women that shaped the history of art and continue to influence our society.

1. Virgin Mary in Religious Art

The Virgin of Kazan
The Virgin of Kazan, 1400s

 The Virgin of Kazan is one of the most revered Russian religious icons, dating early 1400s. The icon was discovered on July 8, 1579, in the city of Kazan. In 1612 Prince Pozharski credits the icon for liberating Kremlin. Since, whenever Russia had to go into battle, the Virgin of Kazan or one of its copies was carried in front of the army. Later, the Virgin also rescued Russia from Napoleon’s troops in 1812. Later on, it surfaced in America, and after a short stint in Vatican, was brought back to Russia.

2. Sandro Botticelli – Birth of Venus 1486

Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, 1486

In the mid-1480s Sandro Botticelli revolutionized the art world by painting the first non-religious nude since the ancient times. His famous Birth of Venus painting represents the true return to the ideals of antiquities as the artist borrowed both the narrative and the elements of the composition from ancient Greece. The story about Venus’ ride on the shell was taken from the celebrated poet Homer.

Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus depicts the Greek goddess of love while emerging from the sea as an adult woman. The famous painting represents the dual idea of Venus depicted in the work of ancient Greek writers. Greeks saw female both as an earthy figure symbolizing physical love, but also as a heavenly goddess who inspired intellectual love.

He had a large impact on Neoplatonism, which is a system of doctrines that promoted the belief of mystical and fantasy (not reality). He influenced artists to come with is use of color, subject matter, and his precise attention to detail.

Contemporary Birth of Venus by Tatyana’s painting inspired by this masterpiece, merges the grace of ancient Greece, Botticelli’s master style and recent “green rush” caused by Legalization of the of Cannabis Industry.

3. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503

Widely known for her mysterious smile and everlasting beauty, one of the most famous paintings of women ever made, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, represents a classical renaissance half-body portrait, set against a background of a distant landscape. The curved lines that depict the subject’s hair and clothing, are echoed in mountains and rivers behind her, thus portraying the connection between humans and nature.

Mona Lisa’s skin is smooth, her eyes highly expressive and her vivid smile so intense that it continues to captivate viewers and artists for centuries as one of the most famous paintings of women ever created.

4. Three Graces by Raphael, 1505

Three Graces by Raphael, 1505

The painting displays the three Graces, figures from Greek mythology, thought to represent beauty, creativity, and fertility. Raphael paints the three women in the nude (believed to be the artist’s first depiction of the nude female form in both front and back views, lightly embracing each other. The three women, two of which wear necklaces, are each holding spherical objects. See also Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens.

While some believe them to be apples (perhaps the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides?), closer inspection suggests that the flawless spheres are more likely to be golden orbs. It has been suggested that, through these golden orbs, Raphael is connecting the Graces with the moon, the goddess Venus and the planet Venus – further highlighting the connotations of beauty, femininity, and fertility.

5. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, 1665

A painting many call the Dutch Mona Lisa due to the enigmatic appearance of its main subject, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring represents a luminous study of a female head. The pearl earring is the main focal point of the painting that’s widely praised for its masterful portrayal of the interplay between the light and shadow.

6. Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1770

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732 – 1806 ), Young Girl Reading, c. 1770

The female figure in Young Girl Reading was meant to represent the natural essence of femininity. For starters, the dark wall in the background helps frame and emphasize the subject’s female form. Fragonard pulls the figure’s hair up in a ribbon and to expose more of her neck, and also places a collar around the bottom of her neck, which both help elongate the female form. He makes the female subject’s face have a rosy-tint to it, which adds a daintier and more delicate feel to the painting.

The Artist used a typical Rococo color scheme, which consisted of soft, delicate colors and hues of gold. The pillows violet tint, the darker-toned walls and armrest, and the female subject’s rosy-toned skin and bright-yellow dress help create the illusion of warmth and joy, and a sense of sensuality.

7. Flaming June by Frederic Leighton, 1895

Flaming June by Fredric Leighton, 1895

One of the most famous and widely reproduced paintings of the Victorian era – Flaming June, a searingly colourful image of a beautiful young woman drugged into sleep by the simmering heat of midsummer. Painted with oil paints on a 47-by-47-inch square canvas, it is widely considered to be Leighton’s magnum opus, showing his classicist nature.

8. The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, 1907

The Kiss Gustav Klimt
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, 1908

Love, intimacy, and sexuality are common themes found in Gustav Klimt’s works. In early 20th century, Gustav Klimt took the female form to a new level and created one of the most famous paintings of women ever. This captivating portrait of a woman dressed in gold is created in Gustav Klimt’s celebrated golden era. The luminous and beautifully executed gold leafs-painting features Adele Bloch-Bauer, a patron and close friend of Gustav Klimt. Gustav Klimt was one of the pioneers of Art Nouveau movement. He was the first to bring Egyptian art into Europe with his lavish gold leaf embellishments.

9. Women of Algiers by Pablo Picasso, 1955

Women of Algiers by Pablo Picasso, 1955

The Les Femmes d’Alger depicts an iconic harem scene. Picasso got the inspiration from Eugène Delacroix and Henri Matisse. The Spanish artist had long admired Delacroix’s original masterpiece from 1834. However, the death of Matisse, his longtime friend and artistic rival, was the likely trigger to paint an odalisque.
He said: When Matisse died he left me his odalisques as a legacy, and this is my idea of the Orient, though I have never been there. Picasso’s abstraction don’t reduce the femininity, relaxation and eroticism inherent in the Oriental motifs. Picasso’s influence on the contemporary world is undeniable. Women of Algiers in their Apartment (version O) sold for $179,400,000 in an auction by Christie’s, setting a new record high for art ever sold at auction.

10. Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol, 1964

Andy Warhol’s paintings of women, especially Marilyn Monroe break the mold. Considering that Warhol painted it after her untimely death in 1962 its obvious that the painting carries darker undertone.

Many of the prints also emphasize her platinum blonde hair by adding variants of yellow. The black are also a somber reminder of the actress’s passing. Vivid colors ultimately bring to life Marilyn Monroe’s iconic status and celebrity glamour. By creating repetitive imagery, Warhol evokes her ubiquitous celebrity status.

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