The Women of Art Nouveau: Five Female Painters You Should Know

Farm in the Snow by Julie de Graag
Source: Female Artists in History

The Art Nouveau style emerged in the late nineteenth century; it was primarily a decorative art movement, expressed in household items like dishes and lamps as well as in graphic art. Art Nouveau is typically characterized by a sense of movement, rounded, asymmetrical lines, and nature motifs, such as flowers and leaves.

Because the Art Nouveau style is typically associated with items as opposed to large, well-known paintings, artists who produced Art Nouveau pieces tend to be overlooked or, in some cases, anonymized. This is because these decorative objects tend not to be valued in the same way that paintings and sculptures are. This disconnect impacts female artists disproportionately, as artists who produce these decorative objects tend to disproportionately be women.

So, to celebrate the women who produced Art Nouveau objects, I want to share five female Art Nouveau artists you should know.

Julie de Graag

Julie de Graag was a Dutch artist who is known today for her woodcuts of animals and plants. Her art was simple, characterized by rigid lines and bold outlines. However, her work exhibits a degree of emotional sensitivity and psychological maturity that elevates it to another level. De Graag’s work connects the viewer to the natural world, giving them an emotional connection to the world around them.

Farm in the Snow by Julie de Graag
Source: Female Artists in History (Facebook Page)
Three Cats by Julie de Graag
Source: Fine Art America
December by Julie de Graag
Source: Pintrest

Margaret Macdonald and Frances Macdonald

Sisters Margaret and Frances Macdonald formed one half of the renowned Glasgow Four, a group of artists that collaborated to produce artwork through the Macdonald Sisters Studio in Glasgow, Scotland. The sisters produced paintings, drawings, metalwork, and textile art; their work was inspired by Celtic imagery and folklore. While the sisters worked individually as well as collaboratively, they shared a similar artistic style. Their work featured many round and circular shapes and pastel colors. Their style is highly unique and instantly recognizable, and the unique character of their work has left a lasting impression on art history.

The White Rose and The Red Rose by Margaret Macdonald
Source: Christie’s
Summer by Margaret Macdonald
Source: National Museum of Scotland
The Choice by Frances Macdonald
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Woman Standing Behind The Sun by Frances Macdonald
Source: Wikimedia Common

Élisabeth Sonrel

Élisabeth Sonrel was a French painter who combined the Art Nouveau style with a degree of realism that is unusual for the Art Nouveau movement. Sonrel’s style is similar to Alphonse Mucha, a famous Czech illustrator who is best known for his poster and advertisement designs. Today, Sonrel is known for her paintings of women in outdoor environments, crafting an image of a dreamy, idealized life.

Le Jardin des Vierges by Élisabeth Sonrel
Source: Alchetron
Аleurs Des Eaux by Élisabeth Sonrel
Source: Wiki Art

Gerda Wegener

Of all female Art Nouveau artists, Gerda Wegener is probably best known for pushing social and artistic boundaries. Her work generally explored themes of gender and sexual and romantic love, making her work controversial and even scandalous in some circles. Today, her work is celebrated for its frank approach to sex and Wegener’s open celebration of different types of romantic relationships. Stylistically, her art is bold and colorful, making use of strong lines, in keeping with the Art Nouveau style.

Les Femmes Fatales by Gerda Wegener
Source: Sotheby’s

Originally published at on July 28, 2020.




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