Investing in Female Artists Pt. 3 –

Investing in Female Artists Pt. 3 –

frida kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Two female artists whose work I really love are Lee Krasner and Dora Maar. What is interesting about both these artists is that they were romantically involved with very famous male artists – Dora Maar with Picasso and Lee Krasner with Jackson Pollock. There is no doubt that the early progression of the careers of both these artists was aided by their association with a famous male artist, but did it prove to be a positive move for their career in the long run?. Although their early careers benefited from their relationships with famous male artists, it now seems that both artists are unable to disassociate themselves from these relationships, and are destined to remain in the shadow of their partners forever. Instead of being known as individual artists of great talent, their relationships have basically ended up defining their place in art history. It is impossible to know whether the careers of either Maar or Krasner would have progressed as far as they did without help from their famous lovers but what I am sure of is that their romantic affiliations are currently hindering the progression of their status in the art world. For Krasner and Maar it seems as though it really was a case of you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.

One of the only cases where a famous female artist in a relationship with a famous male artist has ended up achieving higher prices than their male partner is the case of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The auction record for a work by Kahlo is US$5.6-million, which was achieved by “Roots” in 2006, whereas the auction record for a work by Rivera is US$3.08-million, which was achieved by “Baile en Tehuantepec” in 1995. It was not until after her death that Frieda Kahlo began to be known as an independent artist and not just as the wife of Diego Rivera. Prior to her death, and for several decades after her death, Kahlo was as much in the shadow of her male partner as Maar and Krasner were. Various events in the 1980’s were responsible for Kahlo’s work beginning to receive the recognition and attention that it deserved. The progress of Kahlo’s status has continued to the point where she has actually surpassed the status of her male partner. Some of the recognition for the high prices paid for Kahlo’s work does, however, have to be given to the fact that a very small number of works by Kahlo have ever appeared on the market.

As the above cases show the problem of gender imbalance in the art world is more complicated than it may seem, and the solution more difficult to determine. Progress is being made but not at any where near the pace that it should be.

To be continued………….

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

14 Responses

  1. I enjoy reading your posts.
    thank you.

  2. This is a nice simple piece of art history, with the relation between romance and art or art and romance, it leaves the question open to,’ what was the real passion in the lives’ of the artists’?.

  3. I don’t think there’s any easy analysis that applies to all women in relationships to male artists. Not only do you have the social and professional imbalanaces but personality issues as well. You have all sorts of situations, at least among the 20th century women artists. Some good, some pretty damaging to the woman artist… Some positive examples:

    I don’t have much knowledge of auction prices, but there’s also the example of Georgia O’Keefe… I don’t know how her prices compare to Steiglitz, her husband, but she’s pretty much a household word. Bruce Naumann and Susan Rothenberg are married and are both well-known artists. You have the Oldenburg couple, although for years no one ever mentioned Claes Oldenberg’s wife (Coosje Van Bruggen) until she put her foot down… Sylvie Fleury is married to John Armleder and is better known than he is… she started out as a painter but he talked her out of it and she’s been very successful ever since, so rumour has it.

    But Dora Maar didn’t have much luck hanging out with the ultimate woman-killer Picasso! and she was one strong woman! The only woman who managed to survive Picasso was Françoise Gillot, or so it would appear.

    Keep those good blogs coming!

  4. Mark, thank you for looking at the male dominated art world with a female perpective in mind. Interesting and thought provoking. Keep up the good work.
    Ros Webb

  5. Excellent information. Vieira da Silva was also married to Arpad Szenes and as far as I know he fostered her recognition. As for Paula Rego, I think she stands alone.
    These post are just great!

  6. Ok, so let’s get going on our own!

  7. Pollock grew from Krasner.

  8. I thank you for the post. I am a painter who lived with and had a son with a now deceased famous artist. As I am actively developing my career (which I didn’t while he was alive) I am advised by some to use the name to promote my work. And some say not too , I will always be in the shadow by the reference and what i gave supporting his career.
    I have been questioning this ???
    Does this association automatically give vale to my work historically?
    Maybe it does maybe it doesn’t, you don’t know me, or my work because of the relationship but if the association is presented you might take a second look. Or the opposite you might like my work first and the association is an after fact acknowledging my talent and personal history.
    In the end, as a female artist I have had a romantic and personal reference to a great Artist and Man whom I loved, with my own stories about the relationship and what it gave me and didn’t. (Whole subject for a book)
    The challenge was as a very young artist working side by side with a famous artist is the challenge every artist has. How does one continue to paint after the great masters in history! Whither you live with one or not.
    All artist learn to stand in their own shoes, for filling their destiny continuing to make art in the face of so many great artist, before us who we admire and are inspired by
    Artwork always stands alone. And in reference to its time, that is the nature of Art.

  9. One example may be Brice Marden and Helen Marden. While Helen Marden Is a great artist, Brice has surely eclipsed her in the art market. There really are so many great examples of this. Gone, for the most part, are the days when women painted for a hobby while their husbands painted for a “living”. In Canada there was an outstanding painter (now deseased) by the name of Peter Winterhalter Aspell who was married to the painter Joy Anson. Peter taught Joy how to paint and she set out on a career of painting on her own. There are countless examples of this. There used to be a time where only men became well-known, sought after artists. Women were not respected as artists. Now, thank goodness, this has changed. For the most part.

  10. It’s not completely true that ‘not until after her death that Frieda Kahlo began to be known as an independent artist and not just as the wife of Diego Rivera’. She wasn’t widely known, but she was known as an independent artist in her lifetime. I believe in the end of the 1930s Frida Kahlo participated in a show in Paris and even sold one of her works to the Louvre. I’m pretty sure Rivera wasn’t even there with her.

  11. great post and interesting subject. Nancy Guzik comes to mind as partner of Richard Schmid. Nancy is an exceptional artist in her own right and of course Richard’s daughters Gretchen and Molly are both fantastic painters. i don’t envy the amount of pressure on any of these ladies to prove themselves as artists with such an incredible painter as Richard in their family and all the comparisons that will be naturally drawn. They all seem to handle it very gracefully and i applaud their commitment to produce great work.

  12. it seems to me that the questions are still the same today as they were in the 50’s. A woman is going to have to fight stronger to make herself a place in the art world. Now we can brood about it or support our fellow female artists. i make a point to go to the shows of all female artists in my town. i live in Montreal, and the city is very liberal. Some galleries make a conscience effort to have a pretty balanced program alternating men and women artists. It s the case for the Galerie Monaro, they are showing a woman at the end of the month: Pauline Gagnon. A committed artist, and a committed gallery owner. It is the only way things are going to change.

  13. What I am finding interesting is that contemporary Middle Eastern and Asian female artists are achieving prominence. In particular Iranian and Chinese according to articles by Time Out and International Herald Tribune.

  14. It would be more interesting to focus on the human psyche; male and female to see what the underlying cause is for a choice between male and female artist. I have never monitored the purchasing of art to see the motivators. It would be a very valuable tool in marketing!

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