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Subversive Beauty: Women Breaking the Rules – Series

February 23, 2021 @ 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm EST

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These three talks look at historical women navigating the art world. Stepping into the public sphere of business, marketing, and meeting and shaping taste, each of these women carefully navigated her world to ultimately achieve success.

Session 1: The Pre-Raphaelites and Marie Spartali Stillman
Tues. Feb. 23 @ 2:30– 3:45pm EST

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRBs) rebelled against an art world that evaluated quality based on conventional techniques established in the Renaissance. Spurred by cultural critic John Ruskin, these young British artists sought a return to more ‘natural’ expression, as created before the artist Raphael. Their late 19th century work frequently depicted women, revealing surprisingly traditional ideas given their revolutionary creators. Come learn how these artists told stories through their art, both literary and about their contemporary world. See also how one woman, Marie Spartali Stillman, established herself, working both within the group and through her own voice.

Session 2: The Red Rose Girls
Tues. Mar. 2 @ 2:30– 3:45pm EST

Influenced aesthetically by the Pre-Raphaelites, the Red Rose Girls broke their own glass ceilings in the art world. In the early 20th century, Violet Oakley, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Jessie Wilcox Smith, dubbed the Red Rose Girls after the home they shared, took advantage of a publishing boom and helped establish the Golden Age of Illustration in the United States. Together they created successful careers with leading publishers, simultaneously supporting and subverting gender norms. Their individual and collective stories reveal their clever strategies, and their artwork continues to illustrate our world today.

Session 3: Three Powerhouse Women Shape the Art World
Tues. Mar. 9 @ 2:30– 3:45pm ET

Wealthy New Yorkers Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Abby Aldridge Rockefeller rocked the staid art world of the early 20th century. Defying the strictures set for elite women, they not only amassed distinctive collections, but also established cultural institutions in New York and beyond. In addition, Whitney infused her vision into the art itself, as a sculptor and through her intellectual salon that touched generations of American artists. Edith Halpert, the outsider who brought her smarts to work, influenced Rockefeller and touched many museum collections as a savvy, influential gallerist. Her belief that art belongs to everyone guided her business and consequently all types of collectors. Come see. You’ll be influenced!


All lectures on Zoom at 2:30-3:45pm EST 

About Rena Tobey:

Rena Tobey’s greatest passion is making art accessible, invigorating, insightful, and fun. She teaches art history at NYU’s School for Professional Studies, conducts lively, interactive tours of museum exhibitions, and provides talks on American art for community organizations. Just for fun, she created Artventures!® Game–a cheeky party game on the adventures of art and art history.


February 23, 2021
2:30 pm - 3:45 pm EST
Event Category:


Rena Tobey