by A Kladov
Famous Paintings of Women
Famous Paintings of Women

Artists have been drawing and painting women for as long as we can remember. People love exploring women's representation in art, from ancient statues to modern art. The female form's natural beauty and unique lines inspire so many artists. And hey, let’s not forget the talented women artists who often didn’t get the credit they deserved!

Let’s check out some of the most iconic paintings of women, from famous guys like Botticelli and da Vinci to self-portraits by women artists like Frida Kahlo and Mary Cassatt.

15 Notable Paintings of Women

Many famous male painters have painted women, but women artists have also painted some cool self-portraits. Let’s explore fifteen famous paintings and see what makes them special.

Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1485

Sandro Botticelli, born in 1445 in Florence, Italy, was a big artist in the early Italian Renaissance. He’s known for his mythological paintings and did much religious stuff. He painted several versions of Madonna and Child and contributed to the Sistine Chapel’s artwork.

While many paintings are said to be his, only a few can be confirmed.

One of his most famous works is The Birth of Venus. It shows the goddess Venus coming to shore on a completely naked shell after birth. It’s a pretty iconic image and is probably one of the most recognized paintings of a woman.

Leonardo Da Vinci and His Mona Lisa

Portrait of Mona Lisa del Giocondo, Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci, Portrait of Mona Lisa del Giocondo, 1503-1506

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1506) Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian artist born in 1452, is behind the Mona Lisa. Even without formal schooling, da Vinci was a genius in art, science, and more. He was left-handed and wrote in unique ways, like mirror writing, to keep his ideas secret.

The Mona Lisa, painted in 1506, is a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a nobleman’s wife. Mona Lisa is among the most famous paintings of a woman, showing her against a natural landscape.

Da Vinci used curved lines to demonstrate the links between humans and nature. These lines continue in her hair, clothing, and surroundings and become part of the natural line of rivers and mountains. Her eternal beauty, with a hint of a grin, has made her recognizable as one of the most famous women in art.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting (1639)

Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1639

Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome on July 8, 1593. Art historians consider her to be one of the most famous 17th-century painters.

She was an incredibly accomplished woman artist. She began creating art professionally at the age of 15 years old. During this period, opportunities were few, especially for women artists. Gentileschi paved the way for many other female artists who followed.

She incorporated themes about female mythical and biblical figures and females throughout history.

In 1638, Charles I is said to have invited Gentileschi and her self-portrait to London. This painting represents the allegory of the painting personified. The book Iconologia of Cesare Ripa influenced this perception of painting. He described the painting as a beautiful woman with full dark hair and a face conveying imaginative depth. She was able, in this way, to embody herself in painting. Male artists could not achieve that to the same degree.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer

Girl With a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer, Girl With a Pearl Earring, 1665

Johannes Vermeer, a Dutch Baroque painter, focused on domestic scenes and middle-class life. Each painting was worked on over a long time, with great care and attention to detail. His artworks are most noted for their masterful and exquisite use of light.

Vermeer was a moderately successful artist during his lifetime. During his era, Vermeer was a fairly recognized painter. He was granted a structure in The Hague, but the materials he chose for his art pieces were costly, leading to significant financial burdens for his family upon his passing in 1675.

One of his standout creations is "The Girl with a Pearl Earring." This radiant depiction of a lady has earned a prominent spot in the annals of art. Over time, it was referred to by various titles, such as the "Dutch Mona Lisa," until its final naming in honor of the earring in the late 1900s. Some experts debate the composition of the earring, pointing out its dimensions, form, and shiny appearance, suggesting it might be made of metal rather than pearl.

Post recent refurbishments, several aspects of this artwork have been enhanced. Notable improvements are the nuanced hues and the lady's intense gaze. Further investigations during the restoration process revealed that what appeared to be a dark backdrop was initially a lush, vibrant green.

Olympia by Edouard Monet (created in 1856)

Olympia, Edouard Manet
Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1856

Edouard Manet was a famous French painter who was born on January 23, 1832, in Paris. Many people considered Manet to be a Modernist artist. He was an important figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. He made a significant contribution to this with his paintings that pictured contemporary life of the 19th century. His family was all into politics. And Manet was expected to become a politician as well. However, he chose to become an art student instead.

Manet developed his unique style during the last 20 years of his life. This style was known for its innovation and influenced many future painters.

Olympia was first displayed in 1865 at the Paris Salon. The painting shows a woman lying on her back atop a bed. Her servant is bringing her a bouquet. Victorine Meurent modeled for Olympia, and Laure portrayed Olympia's maid.

The defiant gaze of the model caused outrage in the public as the details of the painting suggest that she is a prostitute or working girl. The details include her earrings, bracelet, orchard in her hair, and the shawl she is reclining on. All of these were considered to be symbols of wealth and sensuality.

Art critics at the time despised it, and conservatives wanted to destroy it, but it has since become a powerful example of female artwork.

Whistler's Mother (1871) by James McNeill Whistler

Whistler’s Mother, James McNeill Whistler
James McNeill Whistler, Whistler’s Mother, 1871

James McNeill Whistler is an American painter who was born in Massachusetts but lived most of his life in the United Kingdom. His most prolific period was the American Gilded Age. His works are known for their moral undertones and sentimental overtones.

His signature was claimed to resemble a butterfly with a long and stinging tail, reflecting the different sides of his persona, like his mild yet aggressive public behavior.

As an artist and musician, he found that both art forms had similar themes. He named some works of art after musical terms like "harmonies" or 'arrangements", thus highlighting his focus on tonal balance. He is considered to be the founder of Tonalism.

It is one of the easiest-to-recognize female portraits of all time, known as Arrangement in Grey and Black no. His mother sits in a chair and looks utterly motherly. 

Historians have suggested that his mother may have been a substitute for a model unable to attend the photo session. Anna Mcneill Whistler was in her 60s when he painted her. She complained about standing for long periods of time.

Woman with a Parasol by Claude Monet

Woman With a Parasol, Claude Monet
Claude Monet, Woman With a Parasol, 1871

Claude Monet is a French painter who was born in Paris on November 14, 1840. Monet is a painter who needs no introduction. He is one of the best-known painters from France.

Monet was also considered the father or pioneer of the Impressionist Movement. He wanted to express nature as he saw it, not how others perceived it. Because of this, he has been hailed as a major figure in the Modernist movement.

He was known for his outspokenness on the Impressionists' philosophy, which emphasizes the artist's perspective over the objective view of nature.

Woman with a Parasol depicts his first spouse and son walking in a meadow at Argenteuil during a windy morning. The Stroll is another name for this picture. It gives an example of how Monet used colors. He did it in the Impressionist style.

Many people think that the spontaneous nature of this painting was achieved specially. For this, Monet did a single long painting session outdoors. This is his most prominent work of that time. And boy, it’s huge! It is 100 cm by 8 12 inches. After approximately a decade, he painted similar paintings. His second wife's daughter, Suzanne, was the subject of his next paintings.

The Cup of Tea by Mary Cassatt

The Cup of Tea, Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt, The Cup of Tea, 1881

Mary Stevenson Cassatt is a well-known American female artist. She was born on May 22, 1844, in Pennsylvania. Born in America, she spent most of her life in France. She was a friend of Edgar Degas, and she displayed her work with other Impressionists. Her paintings often portray women in private social settings,  for example, the close relationship between mother and daughter.

Gustave Geffroy referred to Cassatt as one of "the great ladies of Impressionism", along with Berthe Morisot and Marie Bracquemond. Her work is often compared with her peers, such as Degas. Both strove for a modern sense of light and movement.

Mary Cassatt created The Cup of Tea in 1881. At the time, afternoon tea was a social ritual for wealthy women. Cassat wanted to portray everyday life in the 1880s, and this theme fit her desire. Mary's sister, Lydia, was the subject of many paintings done by Mary. Cassatt painted in bright colors. She also used high-keyed tones. That’s a true manifestation of her unique Impressionist style.

She was a woman who painted in an era dominated by men, but she set herself apart through her unique style and techniques.

John Singer Sargent, The Portrait of Madame X 1884

The Portrait of Madame X, John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent, The Portrait of Madame X, 1884

John Singer Sargent, an American born on January 12, 1856, was born in Florence. Sargent is considered to have created more than 2,000 watercolors as well as 900 oil paintings during his lifetime.

John Singer Sargent was born to American parents in Florence (Tuscany) as John Singer Sargent. He spent most of his life in Europe and trained in Paris before moving to London. He exhibited The Portrait of Madame X at the Paris Salon, hoping it would solidify his status as a Parisian society painter. Unfortunately, it was marred with scandal. He left England the following year and began a highly respected career as a portrait artist.

At the time, The Portrait of Madame X caused controversy because it was thought that her pose was sexually suggestive. Sargent carefully and purposefully chose the pose of Virginie Gautreau with her body in a forward-facing bold stance while her head was painted in a profile view. In this woman's painting, the model is painted in a satin black dress that hides and reveals her form.

Critics of this painting noted that the artist intentionally manipulated the painting to emphasize the curves of a woman. For example, the table the woman is leaning on for support.

Woman in her bath sponging her legs (1884) by Edgar Degas

Woman in Her Bath Sponging Her Legs, Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas, Woman in Her Bath Sponging Her Legs, 1884

Edgar Degas was a French artist born in Paris in 1834. Degas worked in many mediums, such as prints, bronze sculptures, and drawings, but he is best known for his Impressionist oil paintings. Degas was particularly interested in the portrayal of movement, so many of his paintings depict dancers. His paintings of naked women bathing and racing horses also reflect this interest. His portraits were also admired for their intricate display of human emotions.

Most art historians consider him to be one of the fathers of Impressionism. However, he preferred to call himself a realist. Many of his paintings depicted indoor scenes, unlike other Impressionists.

Edgar Degas painted Woman in her Bath Sponging her Legs as part of his series of pastel portraits of naked women. He didn't want to copy classic nude art from the Romans and Greeks but wanted to show real women doing their everyday chores, like bathing.

His works were often sketched first spontaneously and then finished and refined in his studio. This painting shows grace in movement. The gentle curves of the lines create a relaxing atmosphere and a sense of relaxation for the viewer.

The Crystal Ball (1902), by John William Waterhouse

The Crystal Ball, John William Waterhouse
John William Waterhouse, The Crystal Ball, 1902

John William Waterhouse, son of English painters, was born on April 6, 1849 in Rome, Italy. Waterhouse was first known for his Academic Style work before he moved on to Pre-Raphaelite.

His paintings depicted women with themes that ranged from Greek Mythology to the Legends of Arthur. His favorite theme was to create artworks inspired by classic writers such as Keats or Shakespeare.

John William Waterhouse exhibited The Crystal Ball and The Missal at the Royal Academy in 1902. The use of circles, horizontal lines, and vertical lines shows the Italian Renaissance's influence on Waterhouse's art. Compared to Gothic architecture, his art was a departure from the pointed arches common in this period.

The painting now belongs to a private collection. It was restored to its beauty after the previous owner had covered the skull on the desk. The artist has captured the texture and detail of the velvet dress in exquisite detail.

Woman with a Fan (1918) by Gustav Klimt

Woman with a Fan, Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt, Woman with a Fan, 1918

This symbolist painter, who was a member of the Vienna Secession Movement, was also an extremely well-known and prominent person. Gustav Klimt, born in Baumgarten on 14th July 1862, was a symbolist painter. His art is dominated by the female body and has a strong erotic tone.

He was also well-known for his landscapes. Compared to other Vienna Secession artists, Klimt is the artist whose work shows the most Japanese influences.

Woman with a Fan combines Gustav's distinctive style and Japanese art’s influence on modern art, known as Japonism. It was his last work, completed the year before he died.

Klimt was originally a member of the avant-garde group known as Viennese Secession. His later art is considered to be more emotional and passionate than his earlier work. In this period, Klimt took greater risks with his style and technique.

The yellowish hue of the background is reminiscent of his golden period. Flowers and birds are painted with his exuberant color palette. The vibrant and stylized patterns in the painting are reminiscent of woodblock prints.

This piece perfectly represents the artist's evolution through art. It mixes the sacred with the erotic and the ornamental in a perfect balance.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace (1940), Frida Kahlo.

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace, Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace, 1940

Frida Kahlo is a Mexican artist born in Mexico City on July 6, 1907. She is best known for her self-portraits. She was a rare woman who painted her own portrait. She embraced her culture by using naive folk styles.

Her art explored such issues as class, gender, and the post-colonial Mexican Society. She combined elements of fantasy and autobiographical realism to create her unique interpretations of Mexican culture.

The painting is a favorite among historians because it contains many symbols that Kahlo personally cherished.

She is facing the viewer directly in this piece. In the background, there is a large collection of green leaves. A black monkey is working a thorny necklace around the neck of a bleeding woman.

On the noose-like thorns is a small hummingbird, while a black kitten can be seen on the other shoulder. Despite this very unpleasant scenario, she chooses to suffer the pain patiently. And she has a wowing expression of calmness on her face.

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1941.

Portrait of Dora Maar, Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1941

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga on October 25, 1881. Picasso is still well-known today. He was one of those who pioneered and co-founded the Cubist movement. From a young age, he showed great artistic talent. Picasso created many pictures in a realistic style.

In fact, his art underwent a lot of significant changes. He experimented a lot in the first decade of the 20th Century. He tried out different styles and techniques. That’s what separated him from the crowd. Henri Matisse greatly inspired him. The impact of the Fauvists also became very noticeable in his art.

Picasso has a very unique style. There is no doubt about it. This vivid and extraordinary style made him one of the 20th century's most famous and recognized painters and artists.

In 1938, Picasso met Dora Markovic. This was a Yugoslavian photographer. She became the model for Picasso's work Portrait of Dora Maar. It is considered a landmark in female portraits and a change in how women can be depicted in artworks.

Dora, seated in a seat, is shown with a smiling face that combines a frontal view and a profile view. This was a hallmark of Picasso's art. By showing the viewer every angle possible of the subject, he was able to give a more accurate image than a static shot.

Blue Marylin by Andy Warhol

Blue Marylin, Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, Blue Marylin, 1964

Andy Warhol is our final artist. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1928. He was an artist and filmmaker who blurred the lines between different art forms.

His silkscreen versions of household items, such as soup cans, are his most famous works. He is a prominent figure in the Pop Art movement of today, transforming the kitsch and mass-produced elements of commercial culture into something with value and meaning.

Blue Marylin was one of four canvases created in 1964 and collectively known as The Shot Marylins. The Shot Marylins were named after a photographer, Dorothy Podber, a friend of Warhol's, and asked him if he would let her photograph the paintings.

He assumed that she was referring to a camera. However, she pulled out a revolver and fired a bullet at the stack of pictures. Five paintings were in total. However, the turquoise background painting was not present in the stack. Therefore, it does not count as part of The Shot Marylins Collection.

We have now learned that female figures have inspired artists for all of human history. Artists of the time created beautiful female portraits that reflected the popular styles of the day. This gave us a wide range of female art, from realistic to abstract.


Do all paintings of women by male artists?

There are some great female artists on this list. They each added a unique flavor to their respective movements and stood out amongst their male counterparts. Frida Kahlo's self-portraits, Artemisia Gentileschi’s stunning Baroque artworks, and Mary Cassatt’s paintings depicting the everyday life of wealthy women of her time are among these women.

Are all female portraits photorealistic?

A few movements have tried to portray women as accurately as possible. However, most women who appear in art throughout history were painted in various styles. Women are one of the most popular subjects for artists to paint. There are many variations in how they are painted, from Impressionism and Cubism. Our artists have always loved celebrating the sensual curves and lines of the female body in their work, whether realistic or fantastic.