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Caterina van Hemessen: An unknown visual pioneer

BBC Culture – “For International Women’s Day, BBC Culture launches its new series looking at female artists who helped shape the way we see the world. Kelly Grovier finds out how the first self-portrait of an artist at work at an easel was painted by a woman – Caterina van Hemessen.
“Think “creative genius” and a parade of self-portraits from the history of art, each brooding intensely before an unfinished canvas, flashes across your mind. You know the ones: from the rumpled nobility of Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait with Two Circles (1665) to the smouldering introspection of Vincent van Gogh’s iconic Self-Portrait as a Painter (1886), from the bashful gaze of Francisco Goya’s Self-Portrait in a Studio (1790) to the circumspect squint of Paul Gauguin’s Self-Portrait with a Palette (1894). So masculine is the stereotype of the aloof artist, lifting his paintbrush like an existential barbell freighted with psychological weight, it is almost unimaginable that the tradition should have begun with a corseted 20-year-old young woman, whose contribution to cultural history and to shaping our modern idea of the artistic temperament – trapped in a prism of preoccupied thought – has gone largely unappreciated for nearly half a millennium…”

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