Elisabetta Zangrandi's 'Musée Imaginaire' Is a Celebration of Female Artists at Keyes Gallery - 27 East

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Elisabetta Zangrandi’s ‘Musée Imaginaire’ Is a Celebration of Female Artists at Keyes Gallery

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Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz (1854-1893) was a Polish painter during the Realism movement. She is considered the first female Polish artist to be known worldwide, and to have received a professional education in art.

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz (1854-1893) was a Polish painter during the Realism movement. She is considered the first female Polish artist to be known worldwide, and to have received a professional education in art.

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) was an Italian painter during the Baroque period. By 15, she was already creating professional paintings. She was the first woman to be a member of a famous art academy in Florence, the “Academia di Arte del Disegno.”

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) was an Italian painter during the Baroque period. By 15, she was already creating professional paintings. She was the first woman to be a member of a famous art academy in Florence, the “Academia di Arte del Disegno.”

Catharina Van Hemessen (b. 1528) was a Flemish painter during the Renaissance. She is credited with creating the first self-portrait of a painter sitting at an easel.

Catharina Van Hemessen (b. 1528) was a Flemish painter during the Renaissance. She is credited with creating the first self-portrait of a painter sitting at an easel.

Charley Toorop (1891-1955) was a Dutch lithographer and painter. Although she never specified her work into a single movement, she was influenced by the work of Wassily Kandinsky and Vincent Van Gogh.

Charley Toorop (1891-1955) was a Dutch lithographer and painter. Although she never specified her work into a single movement, she was influenced by the work of Wassily Kandinsky and Vincent Van Gogh.

Elena Anguissola (1532-1584) (sister to Sofonisba) was an Italian painter in the late Renaissance who later became a Dominican nun under the name Sister Minerva.

Elena Anguissola (1532-1584) (sister to Sofonisba) was an Italian painter in the late Renaissance who later became a Dominican nun under the name Sister Minerva.

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) was a French painter during the Late Baroque and Neoclassical period. She began painting professionally in her early teen years. Her first royal commission was that of the portrait of King Louis XVIII.  She eventually became the portrait painter to Marie Antoinette.

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) was a French painter during the Late Baroque and Neoclassical period. She began painting professionally in her early teen years. Her first royal commission was that of the portrait of King Louis XVIII. She eventually became the portrait painter to Marie Antoinette.

Mary Beale (1633-1699) was an English writer and painter during the Baroque period. Her portrait work made her the main financial provider of her household. A manuscript she wrote at 30 about her painting techniques is credited as being the first instructional work for painting written by a woman.

Mary Beale (1633-1699) was an English writer and painter during the Baroque period. Her portrait work made her the main financial provider of her household. A manuscript she wrote at 30 about her painting techniques is credited as being the first instructional work for painting written by a woman.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) was a German painter during the Expressionist movement. One of the leaders of the movement, she was the first woman to have painted nudes and to have a museum dedicated solely to her.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) was a German painter during the Expressionist movement. One of the leaders of the movement, she was the first woman to have painted nudes and to have a museum dedicated solely to her.

Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1635) was an Italian painter during the Renaissance, whose apprenticeships under Italian artists opened a door for women to be able to formally study art. She eventually became the court painter to King Phillip II.

Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1635) was an Italian painter during the Renaissance, whose apprenticeships under Italian artists opened a door for women to be able to formally study art. She eventually became the court painter to King Phillip II.

The Nun Guda was a German nun and Limner (someone who paints illuminated manuscripts) during the 12th century. She was one of the primary documented women in the Western world to make and release a self-portrait. The self-portrait was originally found in the Homiliary of St. Bartholomew with the inscription “Guda, a sinner, wrote and painted this book.”

The Nun Guda was a German nun and Limner (someone who paints illuminated manuscripts) during the 12th century. She was one of the primary documented women in the Western world to make and release a self-portrait. The self-portrait was originally found in the Homiliary of St. Bartholomew with the inscription “Guda, a sinner, wrote and painted this book.”

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (1749-1803) was a French painter during the Neoclassical period. An equal-rights advocate, she was one of the first women accepted to the Royal Academy, and to have a studio at the Louvre.

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (1749-1803) was a French painter during the Neoclassical period. An equal-rights advocate, she was one of the first women accepted to the Royal Academy, and to have a studio at the Louvre.

Alice Neel (1900-1984) was an American painter during the Abstract Expressionism movement. In the 1960s she became a figurehead for the feminist movement. She received the National Women’s Caucus for Art Award, presented by President Jimmy Carter, in 1979.

Alice Neel (1900-1984) was an American painter during the Abstract Expressionism movement. In the 1960s she became a figurehead for the feminist movement. She received the National Women’s Caucus for Art Award, presented by President Jimmy Carter, in 1979.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican painter during the Surrealism and Magic Realism movements.  Chronic pain and disability became a central theme of her art after she was severely injured in a bus accident at 18. To this day, she is an inspiration to painters all around the globe.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican painter during the Surrealism and Magic Realism movements. Chronic pain and disability became a central theme of her art after she was severely injured in a bus accident at 18. To this day, she is an inspiration to painters all around the globe.

Judith Leyster (1609-1660) was a Dutch painter during the Golden Age. Her first signed pieces are from when she was only 20 years old. Some sources say she was the first woman to be accepted by the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke for painting.

Judith Leyster (1609-1660) was a Dutch painter during the Golden Age. Her first signed pieces are from when she was only 20 years old. Some sources say she was the first woman to be accepted by the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke for painting.

Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998) was an American painter and photographer during the Harlem Renaissance movement. Her paintings can be found in museums all over the world, and she holds two scholarships in her name for the Museum of Fine Arts and Howard University.

Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998) was an American painter and photographer during the Harlem Renaissance movement. Her paintings can be found in museums all over the world, and she holds two scholarships in her name for the Museum of Fine Arts and Howard University.

Artist Elisabetta Zangrandi in her studio in Verona, Italy. COURTESY JULIE KEYES.

Artist Elisabetta Zangrandi in her studio in Verona, Italy. COURTESY JULIE KEYES.

Left to right, Elisabetta Zangrandi, Julie Keyes and Zangrandi's translator at her home in Verona, Italy. COURTESY JULIE KEYES.

Left to right, Elisabetta Zangrandi, Julie Keyes and Zangrandi's translator at her home in Verona, Italy. COURTESY JULIE KEYES.

Hope Hamilton on May 29, 2024

When curator Alison Gingeras came upon the work of Italian artist Elisabetta Zangrandi on Instagram a few years ago, she was instantly intrigued. Something about the art, at once classic and refreshingly unique, caught Gingeras’s eye, and the two began to message each other online.

“The rest,” Gingeras said, “is history.”

In the fall of last year, Zangrandi traveled to Los Angeles to visit Gingeras who was curating an exhibition focused on portraiture at Blum Gallery titled “Pictures Girls Make.” By this time, Zangrandi had been working on incorporating historical paintings into her oeuvre for about two years. In a recent interview, Gingeras recalled that during her Los Angeles trip, Zangrandi heard Gingeras speak about the idea of women representing themselves in their own work, and inspiration struck.

That inspiration is now on view in Sag Harbor in “Musee Imaginaire,” a solo show of Elisabetta Zangrandi’s work curated by Alison Gingeras running through June 26 at Keyes Gallery. The exhibition features 15 self-portraits of influential female artists through the ages as reimagined by Zangrandi.

The oldest artist depicted in the show is a 12th century nun named Guda who painted illuminated manuscripts and is documented as one of the first western women to have published a self-portrait. The most recent artist whose self-portrait is included in the show is Alice Neel, a 20th century Abstract Expressionist who, in the 1960s, became a figurehead for the feminist movement.

Likely, many of these female artists, especially those who lived hundreds of years ago, had to do their work in secrecy or at least, privately. According to Gingeras, women weren’t accepted to art academies until the 19th century. If female artists were published professionals before then, chances are they had famous fathers. This can be seen in the example of Catharina Van Hemessen, pictured in the collection, whose father was famous painter Jan Sanders Van Hemessen.

“There has been a lot of work to uncover these women,” said Gingeras, noting that this exhibition is an addition to that work. Gingeras also hopes the Sag Harbor show makes this sort of historical art exploration “accessible,” especially for people living on the East End. “To bring that sort of art history knowledge through her work to the public is a great service.”

In deciding which historic women artists to include in the collection, Gingeras, who keeps an archive of famous women’s portraits, would send possible subjects to Zangrandi, who would run with the idea and do her own research. Early on, Gingeras suggested she select a self-portrait in which the original artist depicted herself as a painter. Zangrandi picked up on that idea and before long, the first of the reimagined self-portraits showed up in Gingeras’s inbox.

Within only a few months, the collection was complete.

“When I saw all of the images together, it was like my own personal museum,” Gingeras said. Thus, she titled the exhibition “Musee Imaginaire,” based on the concept of the “imaginary museum,” or the “museum without walls.”

“The whole idea of the museum without walls was a big part of how thinking about collections and the role of the museum has been shaped in the 20th century,” Gingeras explained.

Zangrandi was born and raised in Verona, Italy, where she still lives and works today. She paints out of her house, in which she has a studio.

“It’s very moving,” Gingeras remarked. She has a completely consuming art practice. It’s a very beautiful and pure existence.”

Zangrandi is a completely self-taught artist. She has always loved to paint, but she never took a professional art class. She practiced painting every day as a child on any surface she could find, often resorting to rocks. Perhaps that is why the natural world has such an influence on her work today. Gingeras said Zangrandi “always incorporates some animal or fantastical creature” into her paintings, even these classic portraits.

“She can approach a very sophisticated subject, like repainting a historical painting, and still somehow really capture the essence of these old paintings,” Gingeras noted. “ Yet, she doesn’t betray her unique style. She really makes it her own. She almost becomes all of the subjects, which I think is so fantastic.”

Gallery owner Julie Keyes has been a friend of Gingeras for a long time, and, by extension, became a friend of Zangrandi. Keyes visited the artist at her home in Verona last fall and said that her art feels like a “collision of modern art and Byzantine Italy with her imagination in the center.”

Though there are many historic female artists depicted in this show that viewers may not have heard of, there are also other more contemporary familiar names like Frida Kahlo and Lois Mailou Jones. In all cases, Zangrandi’s exhibition celebrates women who were trailblazers in their field.

“It’s exactly like a museum,” Gingeras said. “You really get this whole spread of history and ideas, and also women creating this space for themselves, their own agency to claim, ‘I’m an artist too.’”

Elisabetta Zangrandi’s “Musee Imaginaire,” curated by Alison Gingeras remains on view at Keyes Gallery, 45 Main Street, Sag Harbor, through June 26. For more details, visit juliekeyesart.com.

Historic Female Artists Depicted in “Musee Imaginaire”

Nun Guda:

The nun Guda was a German nun and limner (someone who paints illuminated manuscripts) during the 12th century. She was one of the primary documented women in the Western world to make and release a self-portrait. The self-portrait was originally found in the Homiliary of St. Bartholomew with the inscription “Guda, a sinner, wrote and painted this book.”

Catharina Van Hemessen (b. 1528)

Catharina Van Hemessen was a Flemish painter during the Renaissance. She is credited with creating the first self-portrait of a painter sitting at an easel, which has become a popular motif.

Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1635)

Sofonisba Anguissola was an Italian painter during the Renaissance, whose apprenticeships under Italian artists opened a door for women to be able to formally study art. She eventually became the court painter to King Phillip II.

Elena Anguissola (1532-1584)

Elena Anguissola (sister to Sofonisba) was an Italian painter in the late Renaissance who later became a Dominican nun under the name Sister Minerva.

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656)

Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian painter during the Baroque period. By 15, she was already creating professional paintings. She was the first woman to be a member of a famous art academy in Florence, the “Academia di Arte del Disegno.”

Judith Leyster (1609-1660)

Judith Leyster was a Dutch painter during the Golden Age. Her first signed pieces are from when she was only 20 years old. Some sources say she was the first woman to be accepted by the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke for painting.

Mary Beale (1633-1699)

Mary Beale was an English writer and painter during the Baroque period. Her portrait work made her the main financial provider of her household. A manuscript she wrote at 30 about her painting techniques is credited as being the first instructional work for painting written by a woman.

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (1749-1803)

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was a French painter during the Neoclassical period. An equal-rights advocate, she was one of the first women accepted to the Royal Academy, and to have a studio at the Louvre.

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842)

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was a French painter during the Late Baroque and Neoclassical period. She began painting professionally in her early teen years. Her first royal commission was that of the portrait of King Louis XVIII. She eventually became the portrait painter to Marie Antoinette.

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz (1854-1893)

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz was a Polish painter during the Realism movement. She is considered the first female Polish artist to be known worldwide, and to have received a professional education in art.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)

Paula Modersohn-Becker was a German painter during the Expressionist movement. One of the leaders of the movement, she was the first woman to have painted nudes and to have a museum dedicated solely to her.

Charley Toorop (1891-1955)

Charley Toorop was a Dutch lithographer and painter. Although she never specified her work into a single movement, she was influenced by the work of Wassily Kandinsky and Vincent Van Gogh. In 1916, she became part of the artist group “Het Signaal.”

Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998)

Lois Mailou Jones was an American painter and photographer during the Harlem Renaissance movement. Her paintings can be found in museums all over the world, and she holds two scholarships in her name for the Museum of Fine Arts and Howard University.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter during the Surrealism and Magic Realism movements. Chronic pain and disability became a central theme of her art after she was severely injured in a bus accident when she was 18. To this day, she is an inspiration to painters all around the globe.

Alice Neel (1900-1984)

Alice Neel was an American painter during the Abstract Expressionism movement. In the 1960s she became a figurehead for the feminist movement. She received the National Women’s Caucus for Art Award, presented by President Jimmy Carter, in 1979.

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