Observations: New Seminar Series at NGV Magnifies Contributions of Women to Art History
Held throughout 2022, a landmark online seminar series specially-curated by the NGV, Observations, examines the indelible contributions of women to art and design history through the lens of the NGV Collection. Spanning from the Renaissance through to the mid-twentieth century, the series offers an invaluable opportunity to deeply engage with the creative careers of many important artistic figures.
Named after English artist Mary Beale’s 1633 text Observations by MB, widely recognised as the first manuscript on painting written by a female artist, the NGV-curated series seeks to expand our conception of global art history by exploring the work of key women artists.
Historians, writers and curators from across the globe participating in the Observations series of seminars include Elizabeth Otto, Juliet Kinchin, and Jennifer Higgie. Supporting programs will be held in person at NGV with curators and educators exploring key related works in the Collection.
In March, the first seminar, A studio of her own, begins with an exploration of the NGV’s recent milestone acquisition of Mystic marriage of St Catherine by Lavinia Fontana, who is regarded as the first professional woman painter in Western art. Leading the discussion on Fontana’s important role in this period will be world-leading authorities Maria Teresa Cantaro and Adelina Modesti. A studio of her own also explores other key women artists and designers from the period 1500-1900 who, despite the many obstacles to their independence, set up professional studios and made successful careers.
In May, the second seminar, Avant-garde beginnings, explores the early twentieth century period from 1900-1930 as a time of radical social, technological and creative ferment that saw women innovate and experiment through exciting new creative spaces such as photography and design. The seminar will explore the careers of women practitioners at the time, such as Clara Driscoll and others at the renowned Tiffany workshop in New York; the women artists leading creations of the Viennese design collective, Wiener Werkstätte; and the Gee’s Bend quiltmakers, an Alabama collective of African-American women who used the practice of quilt making as a pathway towards economic opportunity, civil rights, and artistic and political expression.
In July, the third seminar, Modern art and design innovators, examines the rapidly shifting times of the mid-century period from 1930-1960, in particular, the women artists and designers who reimagined modernism and exported their radical new ideas across the world. Highlighting the work of artists Helen Frankenthaler, Eva Hesse and Lee Krasner and designers Eva Zeisel, Charlotte Perriand and Ray Eames, this series will engage with specialists all over the world.
Completing the Observations series in the last quarter of 2022, the NGV will host a research symposium for postgraduate and early-career researchers to explore new approaches to studying women artists and designers, and conclude the year with Industry contexts. This seminar seeks to turn the lens inward, looking closely at the strategies and decision-making that museums and academic institutions face around collecting, curating, researching and valuing the creative work of historical women artist and designers.
Tony Ellwood AM, Director of the NGV, said: ‘In recent years, the NGV has been actively researching and acquiring important works by women throughout art history – by artists both well-known during their lifetime as well as those whose impact is only now coming to light…The Observations seminar series is a celebration of these contributions, bringing to light the stories behind some of our most recent acquisitions and the extraordinary artists and designers who made them.’
For more information on the Observations seminar series, click here
Tickets are $35 for a single seminar or $85 for three seminars. The first seminar, A studio of her own, runs Saturday, 5 March 2022.