Mary Cassatt – In the Loge (1878)

When Countess Olenska appeared in the box of one of New York’s oldest aristocratic families one January night in the 1870s, a wave of indignation reverberated throughout the seats of the new Opera House. You’d think the fine gentlemen and ladies of New York would have been more enthralled with the Faustian tragedy being played…

Paula Modersohn-Becker: When Life Imitates Art

The name Paula Modersohn-Becker may not say much to you outside of Germany, but at 30 years old she was the first woman to paint herself in the nude, in Self-Portrait at Sixth Wedding Anniversary. Here, one quarter turned with her face flushed, she exposes two small, perky breasts crowned by an amber necklace, one…

Agnes Tait – Skating in Central Park (1934)

A year ago I was sharing with you Hendrick Avercamp’s Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters, an early-17th century outdoors scene depicting the dwellers of a Dutch community having fun and making the most of the cold weather. This year, however, we’re going to 20th century New York. American painter Agnes Tait would probably be completely…

Alice Neel – The Spanish Family (1943)

“Every person is a new universe unique with its own laws emphasizing some belief or phase of life immersed in time and rapidly passing by,” American artist Alice Neel said in her autobiography. Looking at her career spanning over six decades and consisting of hundreds of portraits of people from all walks of life –…

Joan Semmel – Intimacy/Autonomy (1974)

If to empathize means to put yourself in someone else’s place, then Joan Semmel’s self-portraits offer us an exercise in empathy. Four decades before selfies became a thing, this American artist was resorting to photography to document her body and sexuality, an approach that offered her a unique vantage point, further explored through painting. One…

Gabriele Münter – Boating (1910)

Ahh, the quintessential love story: Girl meets boy. Boy is married to his cousin. Girl wants boy to divorce and marry her. Boy doesn’t. Wait, wait, wait. Let’s rewind. Gabriele Münter met Wassily Kandinsky in 1902. Back then, she was this driven 25 year old art student, financially independent, having just inherited a large amount…