Can you name 5 female artists whose work you admire?

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) was founded to reform traditional histories of art. It is dedicated to discovering and making known women artists who have been overlooked or unacknowledged, and assuring the place of women in contemporary art. And it is located in Washington, D.C..

Still Life with Flowers and Gold Cups of Honor by Clara Peeters, 1612
Still Life with Flowers and Gold Cups of Honor by Clara Peeters, 1612

The museum’s founder, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, and her husband Wallace F. Holladay began collecting art in the 1960s, just as scholars were beginning to discuss the under-representation of women in museum collections and major art exhibitions. Impressed by a 17th-century Flemish still life painting by Clara Peeters that they saw in Europe, they sought out information on Peeters and found that the definitive art history texts referenced neither her nor any other woman artist. They became committed to collecting artwork by women and eventually to creating a museum and research center.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts was incorporated in December 1981 as a private, non-profit museum, and the Holladay donation became the core of the institution’s permanent collection. After purchasing and extensively renovating a former Masonic Temple, NMWA opened in April 1987 with the inaugural exhibition American Women Artists, 1830–1930.

To underscore its commitment to increasing the attention given to women in all disciplines, NMWA commissioned Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich to write Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra inspired by five paintings from the permanent collection, for an opening concert.

In November 1997, the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing was opened, adding two new galleries, a larger museum shop, and a reception room. Since opening its doors in 1987, the museum has acquired a collection of more than 4,500 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art. Highlights of the collection include works by Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun.

The collection currently contains more than 4,500 works in a variety of styles and media, spanning from the 16th century to present day. Among the earliest works is Lavinia Fontana’s Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 1580. There are also a number of special collections, including 18th century botanical prints, works by British and Irish women silversmiths from the 17th–19th centuries, and more than 1,000 unique and limited edition artists’ books.

Nearly 1,000 artists are represented, including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Lynda Benglis, Rosa Bonheur, Chakaia Booker, Louise Bourgeois, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Rosalba Carriera, Mary Cassatt, Elizabeth Catlett, Lavinia Fontana, Judy Chicago, Camille Claudel, Louisa Courtauld, Petah Coyne, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Elaine de Kooning, Lesley Dill, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Marguerite Gérard, Nan Goldin, Nancy Graves, Grace Hartigan, Frida Kahlo, Angelica Kauffman, Käthe Kollwitz, Lee Krasner, Justine Kurland, Bettye Lane, Marie Laurencin, Hung Liu, Judith Leyster, Maria Martinez, Maria Sibylla Merian, Joan Mitchell, Gabriele Münter, Elizabeth Murray, Alice Neel, Louise Nevelson, Sarah Miriam Peale, Clara Peeters, Lilla Cabot Perry, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Rachel Ruysch, Elisabetta Sirani, Joan Snyder, Lilly Martin Spencer, Alma Thomas, Suzanne Valadon, and Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun. –