Lesbian Visual Artists & Painters In History

Matisse: "Creativity takes courage". Historically, for women visual artists it was so hard to train as an artist. Lesbian art - for lesbian painters & sculptors it took even more courage. Here are some lesbian visual artists and sculptors you should know about.

Male Artists   |   Sapphic Visual Artists   |   Sapphic Sculptors   |   Sapphic Photographers

Lesbian Art Through History

Whilst compiling this page I was shocked to realise how lucky I, as a girl, was able to study at university. Historically woman (and lesbians) were banned from becoming part of a guild or an art academy, and studying life drawing.

As always, noblewomen were lucky, as they could be educated to read and write, learn and practice the arts, and play musical instruments. For those less fortunate ie most women, convents were the only places where women could learn to get an education and explore their creativity. Obviously, a nuns life would come with sacrifices but perhaps some perks for some. Some lucky wives and daughters could help in ...

... their husbands' and fathers' workshops or take up home crafts such as needle crafts (embroideries), weaving and pottery.

Women & Lesbian Artists During The 18th Century
Though it was the age of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, most women (and lesbians) were still largely banned from formal academic training and exhibiting their work. Women & lesbian artists relied on private salons hosted by wealthy and powerful women and personal connections and informal networks of patronage, support, and training.

Women & Lesbian Artists During The Second Half Of The 19th Century
Women & lesbian artists were still excluded from, for example: free training at state-sponsored art schools, life drawing classes, state commissions and purchases, as well as participating within official competitions. When sculptor Anne Whitney began to study art, quite incredulous, in America apparently not only could women not attend life drawing classes, but plaster casts of the human form could not be used in co-educational classrooms and visits to art galleries required that sculptures of nude men needed to have the genitalia covered before the women could enter the gallery. So some women artists studied anatomy to see a... man's willy!

So to attain art training women and lesbians turned to the studios of established artists or to private academies and "Female only Schools" with art life classes consisting of completely dressed men. For example The Society of Female Artists (now called The Society of Women Artists) was established in 1855 in London and has staged annual exhibitions since 1857, when 358 works were shown by 149 women with some women artists using a pseudonym. The new medium of photography, offered new opportunities to women as there were no traditional restrictions, and no established training. The issue of women’s exclusion from arts education was not addressed by the Royal Academy until 1860, when Laura Herford was admitted by accident to the RA Schools after submitting drawings with only her initials, L.H.. This is rather ironic as, the Royal Academy got off to a great start in 1768 as two of its founding members were women, the painters Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman! Life drawing became available to female art students in Paris & Amsterdam in the 1870s, and to London in the 1890s (and their admission to the Royal Academy was strictly controlled to ensure that they didn't outnumber the men).

The Nazis Ban On Modern Art - "Degenerate Art"
After Hitler and the Nazi party came to power (1933), they even wanted to bring art under their control. They coined a term "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art) to art they did not approve of. All modern art was considered ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis party and expressionism was particularly singled out.

In 1937, The Nazis purged German museums of modern art, removing some 15,550 - 20,000 artworks. In July of that year, a selection of these artworks (740 modern works) was put on show in Munich in a defamatory exhibition titled "Entartete Kunst", in order to “educate” the public on the “art of decay”. The Degenerate Art Exhibition included works by some of the great international names - Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka and Wassily Kandinsky - along with famous German artists of the time such Max Beckmann, Emil Nolde and Georg Grosz as well as Jewish artists. The exhibition was carefully staged so as to encourage the public to mock the work - pictures were hung askew and graffiti on the walls insulted the art and the artists.

Simultaneously an exhibition, Great German Art Exhibition, was held nearby of traditionally painted and sculpted work which extolled the Nazi party and Hitler’s view of the virtues of German life: "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" (roughly translated as "Family, Home and Church).

About 5,000 degenerate artworks were secretly burned in Berlin, some including The Sick Child by Edvard Munch was sold at auction in Switzerland in 1939 and others were disposed of through private dealers. From 1939 to 1945 in Germany and the occupied countries, many modern artists including those of Jewish heritage such as Gertrude Sandmann, Hannah Höch, Jeanne Mammen... were banned from exhibiting their artworks.

The Nazis Looting of Artworks
Though banning "degenerate art", Hitler systematically looted artworks from museums and private art collections throughout the occupied regions. Hitler's goal was to create the Führermuseum in Linz, Austria filled with plundered art which would become the most prestigious art museum in history. French Art Historian Rose Valland courageously began secretly and meticulously documenting as much as possible of the more than 20,000 artworks brought to the Jeu de Paume Museum, Paris which was used by The Nazis as a central storage and sorting depot pending distribution.

After WWII, the information that Rose had clandestinely gathered led to the discovery of multiple repositories of looted art in Southern Germany, most prominently at Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps, where more than twenty thousand works of art and cultural objects were found. Rose oversaw the return of 1,400 crates of artwork from Neuschwanstein Castle direct to the Jeu de Paume.

In 2011, a huge stash of modern art worth up to €1bn (£860m) was found in Cornelius Gurlitt's flat in Munich. Cornelius had inherited the stash from his father Hildebrand Gurlitt, a German art dealer and collector who had been an appointed dealer for the planned Führermuseum in Linz, where Hitler intended to display the looted art.

The rest is history. For sure we all owe thanks to the suffragette movement. Bravo to the woman and lesbian artists and sculptors who pursued their passion in art.

Lesbian Artists: Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur

French Artist: 1822 – 1899

Rosa Bonheur is celebrated as a painter of animals (an animalière) ... more

Lesbian Artists: Aasta Hansteen

Aasta Hansteen

Norwegian Portrait Artist: 1824 – 1908

Aasta Hansteen, was the first Norwegian woman to make a living from her art and was a notable for her portraits and large Biblical scenes ... more

Lesbian Artists: Emilie Mundt

Emilie Mundt

Danish Artist: 1842 – 1922

Caroline Emilie Mundt was a Danish painter and art educator, known for her portraits of children and her scenes of "peasant" life ... more

Lesbian Artists: Harriet Backer

Harriet Backer

Norwegian Artist: 1845 – 1932

According the National Museum of Norway, besides Edvard Munch, Harriet Backer was Norway’s most influential artist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was also a ... more

Lesbian Artists: Marie Luplau

Marie Luplau

Danish Artist: 1848 – 1925

Marie Luplau was a Danish artist and art educator who specialised in landscape painting - often making sketches from life which she transformed into oil paintings in her studio ... more

Lesbian Artists: Louise Abbéma

Louise Abbéma

French Artist: 1853 – 1927

Louise Abbéma is celebrated as a portrait painter of contemporary notables and was one of the most successful women artists of her day ... more

Lesbian Artists: Maria Wiik

Maria Wiik

Finnish Artist: 1853 – 1928

Maria Catharina Wiik was a Finnish painter who is known for her still life, landscape paintings and portraits. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Ellen Day Hale

Ellen Day Hale

American Artist: 1855 - 1940

Ellen Day Hale was an American Impressionist painter and printmaker born into a Boston elite family. Ellen's legacy is not only ... more

Lesbian Artists: Anna Klumpke

Anna Klumpke

American Portrait Painter: 1856 – 1942

Anna Klumpke is best known for her portraits of famous women including Elizabeth Cady Stanton (American writer and ... more

Lesbian Artists: Louise Breslau

Louise Breslau

German-Jewish born Swiss Painter: 1856 – 1927

Louise Catherine Breslau (born Maria Luise Katharina Breslau) was a sought after portraitists who was influenced by ... more

Lesbian Artists: Gabrielle de Veaux Clements

Gabrielle de Veaux Clements

American Artist: 1858 – 1948

Gabrielle de Veaux Clements was an American painter, print maker, and muralist whose ... more

Lesbian Artists: Maria Dulębianka

Maria Dulębianka

Polish Painter: 1858 - 1919

Maria Dulębianka is best known for her portraits of her life partner Maria Konopnicka and studies of women and children. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Ottilie Roederstein

Ottilie Roederstein

German-Swiss Artist: 1859 – 1937

Ottilie Roederstein was a German-Swiss painter who was one of the leading female painters of her generation and ... more

Lesbian Artists: Ethel Walker

Dame Ethel Walker

Scottish Painter: 1861 - 1951

Ethel Walker is best known for her seascapes, still lifes and above all, her female portraits and exploration of female sexuality ... more

Lesbian Artists: Agnes Goodsir

Agnes Goodsir

Australian Artist: 1864 – 1939

Agnes Goodsir was an Australian portrait painter who gained sucess in Paris ... more

Lesbian Artists: Elizaveta Sergeyevna Kruglikova

Elizaveta Kruglikova

Russian Painter & Monotypist: 1865 – 1941

As well as being celebrated as a painter, Elizaveta Kruglikova was especially well known for her monotypes. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Clare Atwood

Clare Atwood

British Painter: 1866 – 1962

Clare Atwood was known for painting portraits, landscapes, interiors and still life ... more

Lesbian Artists: Edith Lake Wilkinson

Edith Lake Wilkinson

American Painter: 1868 - 1957

Edith Lake Wilkinson died 1957 in a state hospital in Huntington having been committed to an asylum, in 1924, by her attorney George J. Rogers. Edith's artwork ... more

Lesbian Artists: Nan Hudson

Anna Hope "Nan" Hudson

American Artist: 1869 – 1957

Nan Hudson tended to paint landscapes and seems to have been inspired by French painter ... more

Lesbian Artists: Frances Hodgkins

Frances Hodgkins

New Zealand Painter: 1869 – 1947

Frances Hodgkins was primarily a painter of landscapes and still life who "evolved her style from impressionistic watercolours to ... more

Lesbian Artists: Ethel Sands

Dame Ethel Sands

American-English Painter (& Hostess): 1873 – 1962

Ethel Sands was paintings were generally still lifes and interiors. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Romaine Brooks

Romaine Brooks

American Painter: 1874 – 1970

Romaine Brooks specialised in portraiture and used a subdued tonal palette keyed to the color gray. She's my fav artists! ... more

Lesbian Artists: Gwen John

Gwen John

Welsh Artist: 1876 – 1939

Gwen John was a Welsh artist who is best known for her watercolours and drawings of solitary, anonymous women. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Marie Laurencin

Marie Laurencin

French Painter & Printmaker: 1883 – 1956

Marie Laurencin is known as one of the few female Cubist painters with a specifically feminine aesthetic. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Anita Clara Rée

Anita Clara Rée

German Jewish Avant-garde Painter: 1885 – 1933

One of Anita Rée's most famous paintings is Weiße Bäume in Positano (White Trees in Positano) (1925) ... more

Lesbian Artists: Gerda Wegener

Gerda Wegener (née Gottlieb)

Danish Illustrator & Painter: 1886 - 1940

Gerda Wegener was known her fashion illustrations and later her paintings that verged on lesbian erotica. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Hannah Höch

Hannah Höch

German Dada Artist: 1889 – 1978

Hannah Höch is celebrated for her incisively political collages and photomontages, which she pioneerd. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Marlow Moss

Marjorie "Marlow" Moss

British Constructivist Artist: 1889 – 1958

Marlow Moss was a modernist and a central figure in the development of European non-figurative art. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Doris Hatt

Doris Hatt

English Artist: 1890 – 1969

Doris Brabham Hatt, was an English modernist artist and a pioneer of Modernism in Britain ... more

Lesbian Artists: Jeanne Mammen

Jeanne Mammen

German Painter and Illustrator: 1890 – 1976

Jeanne Mammen is celebrated for her depictions of strong, sensual women and Berlin city life and her work is associated with the New Objectivity and Symbolism movements. ... more

Lesbian Artists: Gertrude Sandmann

Gertrude Sandmann

German Jewish Artist: 1893 – 1981

Gertrude Sandmann is celebrated for her drawings, including nudes and portraits of women of all ages ... more

Lesbian Artists: Dorothy Hepworth

Dorothy Hepworth

English Painter: 1894 – 1978

It is believed that many of the much praised paintings by Patricia Preece were actually created by Dorothy Hepworth. Dorothy painted expressive portraits ... more

Lesbian Artists: Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein)

Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein)

English-Jewish Painter: 1895 – 1978

Initially, Gluck was known for her naturalistic portraits and still-lifes of flowers but then moved to painting modern portraits featuring women ... more

Lesbian Artists: Nan Mason

Nan Mason

American Artist: 1896 – 1982

Nan Mason specialised in enamel painting and abstract landscapes, and was influenced by the cubist movement. She was part of the artists community in Woodstock, New York ... more

Lesbian Artists: Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka

Polish Painter: 1898? – 1980

Tamara de Lempicka was one of the best-known painters of the Art Deco style and focused almost exclusively on portraits of wealthy aristocrats, and highly stylised nudes ... more

Lesbian Artists: Lotte Laserstein

Lotte Laserstein

German-Jewish Swedish Artist: 1898 – 1993

Lotte Laserstein is known as a painter of portrait, favouring female models, and landscapes. She tended to paint with four basic sets of green-brown colours. The painting featured above is Lotte Laserstein's ... more

Lesbian Artists: Betty Parsons

Betty Parsons

American Abstract Artist & Art Dealer: 1900 - 1982

Betty Parsons was given the nickname, "the den mother of Abstract Expressionism" by Grace Lichtenstein ... more

Lesbian Artists: Gerda Rotermund

Gerda Rotermund

German Artist: 1902 - 1982

Gerda Rotermund was a German painter and graphic artist, from Berlin but little is documented of her, online. She grew up as a witness to the rise of horrendous Nazism and ... more

Lesbian Artists: Ithell Colquhoun

Ithell Colquhoun

British Artist: 1906 – 1988

Ithell Colquhoun was a British painter who was part of the British Surrealist Group (she met Salvador Dali) before being expelled because ... more

Lesbian Artists: Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Mexican Surrealist Artist: 1907 - 1954

Frida Kahlo is legendary for her bold, vibrant colours and self-portraits, many of which express her own pain and sexuality ... more

Lesbian Artists: Leonor Fini

Leonor Fini

Argentinian born Italian Surrealist Artist: 1907 - 1996

Leonor Fini is known for her self-portraits and mythological paintings that focused on eroticism and dreams. After WW2, Leonor designed ... more

Lesbian Artists: Tuulikki Pietilä

Ida Helmi Tuulikki Pietilä

American-Finnish Artist: 1917 – 2009

Tuulikki Pietilä's is one of the key Finnish graphic artists of the post-Second World War period ... more

Lesbian Artists: Sonja Sekula

Sonja Sekula

Swiss born American Artist: 1918 – 1963

Sonja Sekula was a major figure in the European avant-garde and abstract expressionism. Aged 45, on 25 April 1963, Sonja hanged herself in her studio in Zurich ... more

Lesbian Artists: Bernice Bing

Bernice Bing

Chinese American Artist: 1936 – 1998

Bernice Bing became known for her "calligraphy-inspired abstractions" and was heavily involved in the circle of Beat Generation writers and artists centred in San Francisco ... more

Lesbian Artists: Gisela Breitling

Gisela Breitling

German Artist: 1939 - 2018

Gisela Breitling was a German artists from Berlin who was born into Hitler's Nazis Germany. She created more than 700 paintings, ... more

Lesbian Artists: Ester Hernandez

Ester Hernandez

Chicana-American Artist: 1944

Ester Hernández is an award-winning Chicana-American visual artist best known for her ... more

Lesbian Artists: Harmony Hammond

Harmony Hammond

American Artist: 1944

Harmony Hammond is an American artist, activist and writer who was a leading figure in the feminist art movement in New York in ... more

Lesbian Artists: Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas

African-American Artist: 1971

Mickalene Thomas is a distinguished contemporary African-American visual artist who ... more

Lesbian Artists: Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings

Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings

English Artist Duo: ?

Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings are a British artist duo whose work encompasses painting, drawing, etchings, video, performance and ... more


Lesbian Sculptors

When lesbian sculptor Anne Whitney began to study art, quite incredulous, in America apparently not only could women not attend life drawing classes, but plaster casts of the human form could not be used in co-educational classrooms and, visits to art galleries required that sculptures of nude men needed to have the genitalia covered before the women could enter the gallery. So some women artists and sculptor studied anatomy to study a... man's willy! Here are some lesbian sculptors you should know about.

Lesbian Sculptor: Funerary Relief of Fonteia Helena and Fonteia Eleusis

Funerary Relief of Fonteia Helena and Fonteia Eleusis

? Sculptor: 21-14 BCE

On display in The British Museum, there is a Roman limestone funerary relief dated 21-14 BCE depicting two women. The inscription indicates ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Anne Seymour Damer

Anne Seymour Damer

Portuguese Sculptor: 1748 – 1828

Anne Seymour Damerm was not only renowned as a gifted actor and writer but a successful, professional sculptress ... more

Lesbian Sculptors: Emma Stebbins

Emma Stebbins

American Sculptor: 1815 - 1882

Emma Stebbins was a neoclassical sculptor and was the first woman to receive a public art commission from New York City for the statue "Angel of the Waters" (1873), aka... more

Lesbian Sculptors: Mary Lloyd

Mary Lloyd

Welsh Sculptor: 1819 – 1896

Mary studied and worked with French artist Rosa Bonheur. In 1853 with American sculptor Harriet Hosmer, Mary was working in the studio of Welsh sculptor John Gibson in Rome... more

Lesbian Sculptors: Anne Whitney

Anne Whitney

American Sculptor: 1821-1915

Anne Whitney is known for her full-length and bust sculptures of prominent political and historical figures including Harriet Beecher Stowe (American abolitionist and... more

Lesbian Sculptors: Harriet Hosmer

Harriet Hosmer

American Sculptor: 1830 - 1908

During the 19th century, Harriet Hosmer was the most distinguished American female sculptor. She created polished Neoclassical sculptures, depicting mythological icons... more

Lesbian Sculptors: Edmonia Lewis

Edmonia Lewis

African-American Sculptor: 1844 – 1907

Edmonia Lewis story is an incredible tale of tenacity. Edmonia's father was African-Haitian and her mother was African-American and Mississauga (a branch of... more

Lesbian Sculptors: Ambrosia Tønnesen

Ambrosia Tønnesen

Norwegian Sculptor: 1859 – 1948

Ambrosia Tønnesen is regarded as Norway's first female professional sculptor. She studied first in Copenhagen and later in Berlin and then moved to Paris for 20 years. During her lifetime... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Malvina Hoffman

Malvina Hoffman

American Sculptor: 1885 – 1966

Malvina Hoffman is well known for her life-size bronze sculptures of people. Commissioned by the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History she created 104 bronze statues of... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Sigrid Blomberg

Sigrid Blomberg

Swedish Sculptor: 1863 – 1941

Sigrid Blomberg studied sculpture at the Stockholm Art Academy, and furthered her studies in Dresden, Germany. In 1890 she was commissioned to sculpt an ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Florence Wyle

Florence Wyle

American-Canadian Sculptor: 1881 - 1968

Florence Wyle was regarded as one of the finest figurative sculptors in Canada of her time. Florence was influenced by classical Greek sculptors and she excelled at ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Frances Norma Loring

Frances Loring

Canadian Sculptor: 1887 – 1968

Frances Loring was a prominent Canadian sculptor who created hundreds of different pieces of art, including public monument home-front sculptures during the First World War ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Eva Dorothy Allan aka Julian Phelps Allan

Eva Dorothy Allan aka Julian Phelps Allan

English Sculptor: 1892 – 1996

Julian Phelps Allan was born Eva Dorothy Allan - she changed her name / identity to Julian Phelps Allan in 1929. There is speculation as to why... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Ana de Gonta Colaço

Ana de Gonta Colaço

Portuguese Sculptor: 1903 - 1954

During her life, Ana de Gonta Colaço created 36 sculptural works, 13 portraits or busts and 23 sculptures of different styles, oscillating between ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Hena Rodríguez

Hena Rodríguez

Colombian Sculptor: 1915 – 1997

Hena Rodríguez was one of the first Colombian women to become a sculptor. While studying at the School of Fine Arts of Bogotá ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Persimmon Blackbridge

Persimmon Blackbridge

Canadian Sculptor: 1951

Persimmon Blackbridge has worked as a sculptor, writer, curator and performer whose work focuses on feminist, lesbian, disability and mental health issues ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Patricia Cronin

Patricia Cronin

Amreican cross-disciplinary artist: 1963

Patricia Cronin is an award-wining, cross-disciplinary artist (sculptor, painter and photographer) whose art work ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Wangechi Mutu

Wangechi Mutu

Kenyan-born American Visual Artist: 1972

Wangechi Mutu trained as both a sculptor and anthropologist. Her multimedia art work includes ... more

Lesbian Sculptor: Leilah Babirye

Leilah Babirye

Ugandan Sculptor & LGBTQ+ activist: 1985

Leilah Babirye is a contemporary visual artist who specialises in abstract sculpture. Her acclaimed work features wooden sculptures, ... more


Installation Artists

Lesbian Installation Artists: Dwora Fried

Dwora Fried

Jewish-american Assemblage Artist: 1951

Dwora Fried is an assemblage and collage artist who creates rooms / scenes within small glass-fronted boxes which she inhabits ... more

Lesbian Installation Artists: Adejoke Tugbiyele

Adejoke Tugbiyele

Nigerian-American Installation Artist: 21-14 BCE

Adejoke Tugbiyele is multidisciplinary visual artist whose work deals with issues of human rights, queer rights and women's rights ... more