How This Renaissance Trailblazer Paved The Way For Other Female Artists - The Gloss Magazine

How This Renaissance Trailblazer Paved The Way For Other Female Artists

All you need to know about the National Gallery of Ireland’s new summer exhibition, which celebrates the work of the first professionally successful woman artist Lavinia Fontana …

WHO: The late 16th-century artist Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) is widely considered to be the first woman artist to achieve professional success beyond the confines of a court or a convent. She was the first woman to manage her own workshop, and the first woman to paint public altarpieces, and the female nude. Trained by her father, Prospero, she became a well-respected professional painter and highly sought-after portrait artist in her hometown of Bologna, and maintained an active career, painting for many illustrious patrons, while also taking on the role of wife and mother.

WHY: Dr Aoife Brady, curator of the exhibition “Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker”, explains: “Fontana truly was a trailblazer for women artists, her story is still inspirational and paves the way for a society we still aspire to today. Unable to study in artists’ academies like her male contemporaries, she learned her trade from her father, before running her own workshop. She continued to actively work throughout motherhood and had eleven children during the course of her career, while serving as her family’s main breadwinner.”

WHAT: This special exhibition includes some of Fontana’s most famous paintings such as “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon” and “Portrait of the Gozzadini Family”, and also offers insights into Fontana’s extraordinary life through her art.

Indeed, during her lifetime Fontana’s celebrity was such that a Cardinal invited her to move to Rome, where she became a portraitist to the Vatican. Her attention to detail in painting textiles and facial features has drawn wide acclaim.

Dr Brady says: “This exhibition will showcase over 50 remarkable works drawn from across Europe and the US, both from galleries and private collections, and is the largest known display of Fontana’s works to date. The exhibition will also include Renaissance manuscripts, textiles and decorative arts, which will make for an all-encompassing experience for visitors.”

Exploring Fontana’s life through her paintings and drawings, the exhibition will offer insight into the cultural climate that enabled the artist to flourish as a female artist of the period. This is the first exhibition to examine Fontana’s work in almost three decades, and the first to focus on her portraits.

WHEN: “Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker” will be on display in the Beit Wing from May 6 to August 27. The new exhibition, which features a number of never-before-seen works, has been made possible with the support of Bank of America.

HOW: Tickets for “Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker” can be purchased online, starting from €5. A range of ticket concessions will also be available when visiting the exhibition on select days. Find out more at

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