7 Pioneering American Women Artists You Should Know About

Launch Slideshow

We all know the iconic American women artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Georgia O’Keeffe. But there many other pioneering but overlooked women artists who can be added to those talented ranks. Sotheby’s upcoming American Art sale (28 March, New York) presents a selection of paintings, sculptures and drawings by significant American artists, from self-taught painter Grandma Moses to classically trained sculptor Harriet Whitney Frishmuth. Click ahead for a closer look at seven fascinating women artists whose names you should know.  

American Art
28 March | New York

7 Pioneering American Women Artists You Should Know About

  • Anne Ryan (1889–1954), Collage No. 285. Estimate $2,500–3,500.
    The self-taught artist Anne Ryan first experimented with collage at the age of 58 after visiting the studio of the German artist Kurt Schwitters, who frequently worked with the medium. Although she was acquainted with New York artists Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman and her work often echoed theirs in its embrace of pure abstraction, Ryan avoided the often monumental scale of the Abstract Expressionists in favor of smaller, formally rigorous collages that incorporated such ordinary materials as fabric, tinfoil and cardboard.


  • Jessie Willcox Smith (1863–1935), The Little Land, circa 1905. Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    Philadelphia artist Jessie Willcox Smith was perhaps the most famous woman artist of the Golden Age of American illustration, creating magazine covers for Ladies’ Home Journal, Harper’s Monthly and other widely read publications of the day. In the 1880s, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins, who introduced her to photography, which influenced her work. As demonstrated in The Little Land, Smith’s illustrations often depicted children and their mothers. 

  • Lilla Cabot Perry (1848–1933), Mother And Child, 1912. Estimate $40,000–60,000.
    While living in Paris, American Impressionist Lilla Cabot Perry was so inspired by the work of Claude Monet that she sought him out at his home near Giverny. The two painters became close friends, and Monet often counseled the younger artist on her own work. While many Impressionists were influenced by Japanese prints, Perry actually lived in Japan for three years, immersing herself fully in the country's art and history.

  • Elizabeth Shippen Green (1871–1954), The Suspected Suffragette. Estimate $5,000–7,000.
    In 1901 Elizabeth Shippen Green won a coveted contract as an illustrator for Harper's Monthly, making her one of the most successful illustrators of her generation. Along with Jessie Willcox Smith and Violet Oakley, Shippen was known as one of “The Red Rose Girls,” a trio of illustrators centered in Philadelphia. Taught by the legendary illustrator Howard Pyle, they provided an important model of independence for female artists of the early 20th century. 


  • Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses (1860–1961), Hurrah For Christmas, 1946. Estimate $100,000–150,000.
    The ultimate late bloomer, Grandma Moses (born Anna Mary Robertson) took up painting at age 75 after having raised a family of five children. Inspired by memories of her childhood on a farm in upstate New York, the self-taught Moses gained national acclaim for her homespun depictions life in rural America.


  • Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880–1980), Crest of The Wave, 1925. Estimate $15,000–25,000.
    Inspired by famed performers such as Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller and Anna Pavlova, sculptor Harriet Whitney Frishmuth rose to popularity with her lyrical depictions of dancers rendered in bronze. Briefly a student of Auguste Rodin in Paris, Frishmuth was dedicated to the traditional Beaux-Arts style embodied in such works as  The Vine , a version of which is included in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Blanche Lazzell (1878–1956), Abstraction I, 1944. Estimate $7,000–10,000,
    Among America’s first Modernists, Blanche Lazzell lived in Paris during the 1920s where she studied with Albert Leon Gleizes and Fernand Léger and absorbed many of the tenets of Cubism. Lazzell returned to the US soon after and in 1925 created a series of block prints that are among the earliest nonrepresentational American artworks.



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