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Trail

Women Artists

A spotlight on outstanding women artists and their works in the Royal Collection

Traditionally, the history of art has almost exclusively been told as a story of male achievement. This is perhaps neatly illustrated by the term ‘masterpiece’, itself gendered, which is commonly applied to creative works across disciplines. Major art collections, including the Royal Collection, do not hold an equal or similar number of works by men and women, which reflects the lack of opportunities and many socio-economic obstacles women have faced in becoming professional artists. It has also generally been the case that female artists have not been granted the same attention – through scholarship, in temporary exhibitions and museums’ permanent displays – as their male counterparts. The second half of the twentieth century saw some art historians recognise the marginalisation of women's creativity, leading to a reassessment of the traditional canon of art which continues today.

There are drawings, paintings, sculptures, bindings, ceramics, prints, book illustrations, photographs and needlework in the Royal Collection made by women, from the sixteenth century to the present day. The Women Artists trail presents highlights from this very rich corpus of material and complements a separate exploration of the significant body of work by women photographers in the Royal Collection.

Some of the female artists, sculptors and designers represented in this trail are more familiar names than others, and this is not a complete survey of the subject; the Royal Collection is not a representative collection of the history of art – the women artists represented in it, for example, are predominantly of western European origin – but rather a reflection of the individual tastes of different monarchs, their consorts and other royal family members over five centuries.

Explore both sections of the trail below to learn more about some of the achievements of women in the arts and see examples of the superlative quality and variety of the works they created.