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Modern School of Athens: Women in Art and Music

Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) was a groundbreaking feminist artist and the only American officially associated with the Impressionist movement. Cassatt was instrumental in helping to introduce European art in the United States, and her works advocated for women’s rights globally. Her paintings depicted everyday women in the late 19th century, her most famous painting being ‘Little Girl in a Blue Armchair.’.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986), an American artist, was a monumental figure in American Modernism. O’Keeffe is most known for her paintings of nature, which often featured landscapes and large-scale paintings of flowers. She was among the first female painters to be recognized by the predominantly male New York art scene for her importance in contribution to contemporary art. O’Keeffe became an American symbol of modernity and changing society’s impression of women.

Amy Winehouse (1983 - 2011) was an English singer who gained fame for her deep and emotional vocals. In addition, her meaningful lyrics resonated with the audience. Coupled with her music’s retro-inspired sound, Winehouse influenced the music industry through the resurgence of retro sounds and emotional authenticity.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 - 1973) is hailed as the “Godmother of Rock n Roll” who paved the way for future rock legends. Her work is credited with inspiring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others. As a queer African American woman, Sister Rosetta transcended the boundaries of music and broke stereotypes.

Augusta Savage (1892 - 1962) was a notable American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Her works elevated black culture into mainstream media, working with other figures of the Harlem Renaissance to display the contributions of African American culture in society. Furthermore, she was a teacher and activist whose lifelong fight was to equalize the arts. Savage was influential for her battle against poverty, racism, and sexism.

Louise Bourgeois (1911 - 2010) was a French-American artist best known for her large-scale sculptures. Bourgeois is one of the greatest artists of modern and contemporary art, with a career spanning eight decades. She has had a profound impact on feminist art as among the first to address gender norms in her work. For instance, her famous spider sculptures were often interpreted as symbols of feminine protection and empowerment.

Whitney Houston (1963 - 2012), an American singer and actress, was regarded as one of the greatest singers in music, along with one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Her musical prowess has won her numerous music awards and she was the first to have seven consecutive #1 hits, with her most famous being the iconic “I Will Always Love You.” Houston not only influenced other singers in the music industry, but also molded societal and cultural perceptions.

Adele’s (1988 - ) soulful music has won her 15 Grammys. The English singer-songwriter has inspired other musicians to remain true to their unique voices and identities. Adele’s songs have sparked authenticity and emotional vulnerability in the music industry, making her a timeless artist.

Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954), a Mexican painter who drew inspiration from nature and Mexican artifacts, gained recognition from her self-portraits. Her confrontational paintings featured bold, brilliant colors that explored themes of identity. Her works, which broke gender boundaries and showcased her Mexican roots, continue to inspire other artists today.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928 - 2011), an American expressionist painter, is known for her experimentation with stain painting. Frankenthaler was a major contributor to the history of postwar American painting, whose work was exhibited for over 60 years. As a woman of Abstract Expressionism, she broke through the predominantly male movement, embracing color and acting as a bridge between the movements two generations.

Aretha Franklin (1942 - 2018), referred to as the “Queen of Soul,” was an American singer and songwriter. Her music defined the 1960s golden age of soul music, and she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some of her most well known songs include “Respect,” “I Saw a Little Prayer,” and “Until You Come Back to Me.” Throughout her career, Franklin has used her success to contribute to the fight for civil and women’s rights by performing at protests and donating to civil rights groups.

Yayoi Kusama (1929 - ) is a Japanese contemporary artist known for her unique patterns among her works. Dubbed the queen of the polka dot, Kusama’s famous sculptures and installations feature extensive use of the polka dot - notably seen in her work, the “Infinity Mirror Room”. Kusama was an important figure in the 1960s avant-garde art scene, showing that she could be just as influential as her modernist, male predecessors.

Ella Fitzgerald (1917 - 1996) was a revolutionary American jazz singer whose iconic vocal range and signature velvety singing style earned her global recognition. “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” are among her greatest hits.For her widespread influence in the jazz world, Fitzgerald has been dubbed “The First Lady of Song.”

Dolly Parton (1946 - ) and her career is a real life rags-to-riches story. Born in a large family in the Great Smoky Mountains, Parton’s singing has made her successful globally. Her story demonstrates that talent can overcome all odds, with more No. 1 hits than any other female artist. In addition to inspiring future generations, the singer has supported LGBTQ+ and Black communities, as well as making donations to various charity foundations.

Madonna (1958 - ), sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Pop”, is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Some of her most famous songs include “Like a Prayer,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” and “Express Yourself.” In addition, Madonna has profoundly influenced the music industry and society through her feminism and daring fashion choices. Moreover, she has advocated for causes such as women’s and LGBTQ rights.

Beyonce (1981 - ), most recognized for her music and performances, has used her artistic success to positively impact the community around her. She has donated to organizations fighting food insecurity, in addition to founding the BeyGOOD charity foundation. Her work has empowered African-American women artists, advocating for change in the music industry.

Taylor Swift (1989 - ) has had a groundbreaking career in music, from her humble beginnings in country music to her incredible success in the pop music scene. Her lyrical talent and musical versatility has contributed to her achievements as the most streamed female artist of all time, inspiring artists worldwide. Swift has 12 Grammys, with 52 nominations, along with countless other musical awards. She has used her enormous presence to highlight issues in not only the music industry, but also society as a whole by donating to food banks, disaster relief, and child welfare charities.