Leading Ladies: Self Portrait

7:00 AM

Leading Ladies
Strong Women in Art
Curated by Katie Sloan

Caterina Van Hemessen, Self Portrait, 1548
Caterina Van Hemessen was one of the first Flemish female painters. Her work is known for her small-scale female portraits. She was also the first painter of both genders to paint a self-portrait shown seated at an easel. Female painters at this time period were rare. In order to become an artist, one had to dissect cadavers, study a nude male, and apprentice a teacher starting at the ages 9-15. All of these were obstacles for female painters. Hemessen was fortunate enough to be trained by her father which made it possible for her to become an artist.  

While fortunate to be a painter, Hemessen lacked proper training to acquire further skills. While her paintings are detailed and dimensional, they aren't the best paintings out there by any means. The face of her self portrait and body is a little disproportional, and her face seems flat. While there are folds in the clothing, they are not done well and the black om her chest also seems flat and lacking in shape. The composition of the painting is interesting. Knowing that she is the first painter to attempt to paint the self portrait as an easel, though, makes the painting a fresh idea of its time. 

While maybe not the most skilled artist, Caterina Van Hemessen used the teachings from her father to make headway for female artists. Since Hemessen was the first to paint the self portrait at an easel, she truly is an inspiration to art. Several of these paintings have been done after this original one. Being the first to paint this painting she is another leading lady of art. 

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