|Artist||Dates||Nationality||Movement||Example Painting||Place to View Art|
|Sofonisba Anguissola||1532–1625||Italian||Renaissance||“Self-Portrait” (1556)||Prado Museum, Madrid|
|Artemisia Gentileschi||1593–1653||Italian||Baroque||“Judith Slaying Holofernes” (1620)||Uffizi Gallery, Florence|
|Judith Leyster||1609–1660||Dutch||Baroque||“The Proposition” (1631)||Mauritshuis Museum, The Hague|
|Angelica Kauffman||1741–1807||Swiss/Italian||Neoclassicism||“Portrait of Countess Golovine” (1783)||Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg|
|Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun||1755–1842||French||Rococo/Neoclassicism||“Marie Antoinette and her Children” (1787)||Palace of Versailles, France|
|Rosa Bonheur||1822–1899||French||Realism||“The Horse Fair” (1853)||Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York|
|Berthe Morisot||1841–1895||French||Impressionism||“The Cradle” (1872)||Musée d’Orsay, Paris|
|Mary Cassatt||1844–1926||American||Impressionism||“The Child’s Bath” (1893)||Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago|
|Hilma af Klint||1862–1944||Swedish||Abstract/Spiritualism||“The Dove” (1907)||Moderna Museet, Stockholm|
|Georgia O’Keeffe||1887–1986||American||American Modernism||“Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” (1932)||Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe|
|Tamara de Lempicka||1898–1980||Polish||Art Deco||“Portrait of the Duke of Westminster” (1927)||Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris|
|Frida Kahlo||1907–1954||Mexican||Surrealism/Magic Realism||“The Two Fridas” (1939)||Dolores Olmedo Museum, Mexico City|
|Helen Frankenthaler||1928–2011||American||Abstract Expressionism||“Mountains and Sea” (1952)||Guggenheim Museum, New York|
|June Leaf||1929–Present||American||Abstract/Expressionism||“Trace” (2006)||Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.|
Whether you’re an amateur art enthusiast or a professional connoisseur, it always pays to stay informed about the most renowned female painters. You may not know the names and works of the best female painters out there, but here’s your chance to know who they are and learn more about their masterpieces!
1 Sofonisba Anguissola (1532–1625)
I’m starting this list off with Sofonisba Anguissola, who was in many ways ahead of her time. Born in Cremona, Italy, during the sixteenth century, Anguissola was an emancipated woman during an era when women were not typically allowed to pursue careers or receive a formal education. Her father nevertheless saw to it that all of his daughters received some form of art instruction.
As one of the earliest female painters to gain renown throughout Europe, Anguissola’s work often depicted her sisters as models and was celebrated for its modern style that rejected many Renaissance traditions. She became increasingly popular throughout Italy, Madrid, and London and is particularly known for portraiture of Queen Elizabeth I. As her recognition continued to soar, she was invited by both popes and royals to become their court painter—an impressive feat for a woman in such times!
2 Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1653)
Artemisia Gentileschi was a brave pioneer of art history. She is especially renowned for her fiercely feminist and progressive works that challenged traditional depictions of women, often as demure and agreeable figures. As the daughter and pupil of Orazio Gentileschi, she received exceptional training from an early age, and she proved herself a master with powerful use of color and composition.
One of her most famous works is Judith Slaying Holofernes (1612–1613), which chronicles the story of the Biblical heroine Judith’s killing of the Assyrian scourge Holofernes in his own tent – taking revenge on behalf of her people. Artemisia told this story using theatrical lighting to create an intense atmosphere, portraying Judith’s gruesome rampage as both thrilling yet ultimately necessary for progress.
Gentileschi was unafraid to explore themes that other female painters at the time were unable or unwilling to touch. Even though art historians have just recently begun to give her due credit for her genius contributions to Western painting, generations have been inspired by her unflinching boldness in pushing boundaries—both artistic and social—with each brushstroke.
3 Judith Leyster (1609–1660)
I’ve chosen to cover Judith Leyster and two other female painters I think everyone should know about. Dutch painter Judith Leyster is widely considered one of the best female artists of the 17th century. Most of her works capture scenes of Dutch people in domestic interiors and even though she rarely left Holland, her paintings feature a broad range of characters, from all-out brawls to merrymaking music sessions.
Acknowledged by some as the first Dutch baroque painter, Leyster adopted a hybrid approach to painting that incorporated elements from both northern and southern Europe. Her works were not just technically excellent; they also depicted themes with remarkable emotional intensity. During her career, she was particularly noted for her genre art scenes featuring everyday people engaging in activities such as music-making and intimate conversations, which added an important touch of humanity to Dutch art during this era.
4 Angelica Kauffman (1741–1807)
The impact that Angelica Kauffman had on the female art scene in 18th-century Europe is immense. A German-Swiss painter, she was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in London and, with her work advocating for progressive ideas and addressing feminist issues, was a key figure in establishing modern art.
Her style incorporated classical painting into a traditional Swiss theme evolving from her home country’s past rather than pulling inspiration from contemporary European trends. Kauffman mostly used pastels for her works on canvas, though occasionally achieved powerful effects with oil paintings such as Portrait of Vincenzo Morosini (1753).
Elegance and grace are defining features of many of Kauffman’s early works where she displayed an intricate understanding of classical mythology through visual storytelling. Often featuring ghostly figures representing characters such as Flora or Hebe, these paintings have managed to stand the test of time thanks to their captivating composition and matching backgrounds.
Kauffman’s influence went beyond Switzerland since she traveled across Europe and met with prominent artists and intellectuals like William Hogarth at Royal Academy and Thomas Gainsborough in England before retiring to Rome after suffering a stroke late in her life. Through these connections, Kauffman became one of the most well-respected painters in European history, laying the foundations on which many later female artists built successful careers.
5 Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842)
I’ll start by talking about the one and only Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842). She was a French Neoclassical painter who is best known for her portraits of Marie Antoinette, the one-time Queen of France. She worked as a portrait artist for around 40 years and is considered to be one of the most important female painters in history.
What’s so impressive about her work is that even though she was a female painter in an age when women were largely excluded from large artistic commissions, she was able to make a huge impact on the art world. Her work has become iconic and her skill puts her among the greatest portraitists of all time.
She was more than just an artist; she was also something like a celebrity in France because of her extraordinary talent. In fact, French critics referred to Le Brun as “the Queen Painter” which speaks volumes as to what kind of recognition she achieved during her lifetime. Today, some of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun’s paintings can be found in major art collections throughout Europe, including the Louvre Museum in Paris where three of her iconic paintings are still proudly on display.
6 Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899)
I’d like to start this list off with the legendary Rosa Bonheur—one of the most famous female painters of all time. This French painter was part of an art movement called ‘Naturalism’, which focused on bringing attention to environments and animals. Her most well-known works are The Horse Fair, Ploughing in the Nivernais and Portrait of Baronne de Rothschild.
Not only did she break barriers with her accolades, but she also overcame societal norms that discouraged women from even entering colleges or museums. Her triumphs played a major role in paving the way for other female artists to excel despite their gender. Although many aren’t aware that Bonheur was actually a part of two romantic relationships with two women too, it is clear her work will remain untouched as one of best female painters ever known.
7 Berthe Morisot (1841–1895)
Berthe Morisot was a French Impressionist painter and sister-in-law of impressionist painter Édouard Manet, with whom she exchanged ideas. She captured the fleeting moments of modern life – women dressing, children playing – and portrayed them in a delicate and sensitive manner that demonstrated, in the words of Claude Monet, “infinite tenderness.”
Alongside her close friend Mary Cassatt and other female impressionists such as Marie Bracquemond and Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Morisot created pieces that breathed new life into art by focusing on everyday scenes. Those works are some of the most beloved Impressionist creations to date.
8 Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)
Mary Cassatt was an American impressionist painter, although she often found herself traveling between her home country and Paris, France. Known as a painter of modern life, she enjoyed painting children and often places emphasis on their relationships with each other and their families. Her lengthy paintings usually were composed with multiple figures and were highly detailed – conveying psychological meaning to her viewers.
Her most distinguishable work is perhaps Young Girl at a Window (May, 1891). Other works include At the Theater (1879-80), Woman Bathing in a Stream (1899-1900) and The Boating Party (1893–94).
9 Hilma af Klint (1862–1944)
Hilma af Klint was a Swedish artist and mystic who developed an abstract, symbolic form of painting. Her innovative works predate the first purely abstract compositions by famous artists like Kandinsky. She was a deeply spiritual woman and believed her paintings were her way of communicating with the spirit world.
Although her art was ahead of its time, it wasn’t seen until long after she had passed away. The public didn’t get to discover the magic of her painting until 1986 – over four decades after she died – when an exhibition of her works took place at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Since then, she has come to be recognized as an important figure in 20th-century abstract art and is one of the best female painters from this era.
10 Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986)
Georgia O’Keeffe is hailed as an iconic figure in American art in the 20th century. Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work reflects a unique blend of cubism and modernism, as well as a newfound appreciation for natural forms that were influenced by her time spent in New Mexico.
O’Keeffe is famously known for expressing her intense emotion through her abstract paintings of natural forms, which have featured prominently on New York and international gallery walls since the 1920s. Her works included abstract paintings of cloud-filled skies and vibrant closeups of flowers like lilies and iris. She embodies a brave independence to break away from convention and her artwork remains celebrated for its immense complexity and individualistic spirit.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum born in Texas is dedicated to preserving her star-studded career of over eight decades that continues to impact current generations around the world.
11 Tamara de Lempicka (1898–1980)
Tamara de Lempicka is arguably one of the most stylish female painters of all time. She was born in Tsarist Russia before moving to Paris, taking the city by storm with her passion for luxury, glamor, and modernist taste. As an entertainer to the rich and famous, she developed a unique personal style that embodied the roaring 1920s.
Her art deco paintings often feature elegant female figures in glamorous settings, full of curves and pastels. From New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to Los Angeles’ Getty Museum, her works are celebrated around the world as a symbol of taste and class. Tamara de Lempicka is best known for her portraits but she also created landscapes and still-life paintings which demonstrate her extraordinary talent.
12 Frida Kahlo (1907–1954)
No list of the best female painters would be complete without Frida Kahlo. Despite her short life, she left an indelible mark in art. Born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1907, Frida was interested in art from an early age and even attended the National Preparatory school at the young age of 15 to pursue her dreams of becoming an artist. In 1925, she had a near-fatal accident that left her bedridden and unable to move around for months on end. During this time, she entertained herself with painting and was aided heavily by her husband Diego Rivera, a fellow Mexican muralist, and artist.
In her lifetime, Kahlo produced over 140 paintings – mostly native scenes as well as works of self-portraiture – which earned highly international recognition and several awards including being named one of the most recognizable artists of all time. Her works have been displayed at various museums around the world including Mexico’s Dolores Olmedo Museum dedicated exclusively to France’s work among others. Her most iconic piece is undoubtedly Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird painted in 1940 that has since been acquired by Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
In addition to being one of the best female painters, Frida was a symbol for many social causes near and dear to her heart such as women’s rights, liberation struggles, or disability justice issues. Her painful yet powerful works will remain engraved in everyone’s hearts forever!
13 Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011)
13. Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011): A contemporary of the Abstract Expressionists, Helen Frankenthaler was one of the leading figures in Color Field painting. Working mainly with acrylics, she was influenced by both Jackson Pollock and Hans Hoffman, creating abstract art that is rooted in both the physical and mental worlds. She explored a range of different techniques to apply paint to canvas—staining, pouring, and soaking pieces with highly pigmented colors. What she created was an expansive landscape of texture and color that continues to influence those working in abstract art today.
14 June Leaf (1929–Present)
As one of the best female painters, June Leaf is an American painter and printmaker who is just as famous for her outspoken nature as she is for her artwork. Known to challenge the male-dominated art world of her time, Leaf’s work takes a unique approach to abstraction that makes it instantly recognizable. Her use of bold colors and somewhat slap-dash texture often contrasts with the more precise lines found throughout abstract expressionism.
Leaf’s accolades include membership into the prestigious National Academy in New York City and fellowships from prominent organizations such as Yaddo and The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her artwork can be found housed in private collections around the world, as well as public collections like The Museum Of Modern Art.