Home » VoCA loves…Women Artists: Louise Bourgeois and her sisters

VoCA loves…Women Artists: Louise Bourgeois and her sisters

It’s no secret that women artists have been notoriously overlooked throughout the course of white, male-dominated art history.


Christiane Pflug, Kitchen Door with Esther, 1965. Image: christianepflug.com

There are many reasons for this, not least of which is that women’s ability to express themselves was seriously limited before they won the right to vote. For non-asian and non-First Nations women in Canada, this was in 1916 in Winnipeg.

Click HERE to see a 1974 CBC clip of Beatrice Brigden, recalling suffragette Nellie McClung’s famous ‘mock parliament’ of 1914. It’s great.

The early 20th century produced some women artists who are well worth knowing about, for instance Lilias Torrance Newton, Emily Coonan, the Automatiste Marcelle Ferron and the self-taught painter Christiane Pflug.


Marcelle Ferron, Return from Italy no 2 (partial reproduction), 1954. Image: mnba.qc.ca

The wave of feminism in the 1970’s coincided with a breaking of the previously limited art historical stream, paving the way for gay art, African American art, outsider art, feminist art and other streams under which groups could assemble themselves.

Blake Gopnik, in THIS article in the Washington Post, writes:

What Is Feminist Art?
(a) An interesting chapter in art history, now closed. (b) Special pleading for mediocre artists. (c) A souvenir left behind by 1960s counterculture. (d) The most important artistic movement since World War II.

The correct answer is d.


The artist Joyce Wieland, who said: “I think of Canada as female. All the art I’ve been doing or will be doing is about Canada.” Image: geocities.com

More recently, Canada boasts some world-class women artists, a handful of our favorites who we’ll mention here:

Betty Goodwin, Joyce Wieland, Lisa Steele, Vera Frenckel, Francoise Sullivan, Gathie Falk, Hilda Woolnough, Aganetha Dyck…as well as those from younger generations who feature regularly on VoCA.

One of the greatest living female artists – we think – is Louise Bourgeois.


Louise Bourgeois, Cell VII, 1998 (interior view). Image: woodstreetgalleries.com

HERE is a piece from the Art Newspaper, on the recently released film “Louise Bourgeois: the Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine”.

Watch the trailer HERE.

Or, better yet, go see her retrospective, on until September 28, 2008 at the Guggenheim New York. Click HERE for the museum website with video clip introducing the exhibition.

Watch for VoCA’s upcoming review of the forthcoming book Independent Spirit, by A.K. Prakash, for Quill & Quire.

3 Responses to “VoCA loves…Women Artists: Louise Bourgeois and her sisters”

  1. hannah says:

    “It’s no secret that women artists have been notoriously overlooked throughout the course of white, male-dominated art history.”

    If it’s no secret, than why are VOCA’s so male-dominated? I dare you to look through your archives and see how balanced your ‘view’ really is.

  2. Andrea says:

    Hi. First, VoCA doesn’t claim to give equal coverage to men and women. We give coverage to the artists we feel are the best. Period.

    Secondly, in the late 19th and early 20th century, women were inhibited as to how far they could pursue their careers, so naturally men had the ability, drive, confidence and opportunities to go farther with art – and become stronger artists. Women who were the exception (Louise B, Emily Carr, Mary Cassatt, among many others) were strong personalities and true pioneers.

  3. sally says:

    Off-the-top-of-my-head, undeservedly unsung, mid-career or senior, Toronto region: Susan Detwiler, Rebecca Diederichs, Maura Doyle, Libby Hague, Jamelie Hassan, Johanna Householder, Louise Liliefeldt, Deirdre Logue, Lorna Mills, Allyson Mitchell, Janet Morton, Lisa Neighbour, Tanya Read, Sandra Rechico, Lyla Rye, Joanne Tod, Camille Turner, Julie Voyce…any many more of course

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