Five shows celebrating women pioneers

Published 25 November 2015

Exhibitions devoted to the trailblazing women whose creativity helped transform the realms of art, fashion and photography.

1. Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

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During the 80 years this show covers, an unprecedented number of Scottish women trained and practised as artists. Encompassed are several defining moments, such as Dorothy Carleton Smyth’s appointment as director of Glasgow School of Art in 1933 – although she sadly died before she could assume the post – and sculptor Phyllis Bone’s election as the first female member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1944. Bringing their work together with that of other artists such as Joan Eardley, Bessie Mac Nicol and Bet Low, the display pays tribute to the contribution of women to this period of art, as well exploring the difficulties they faced because of their gender (until 26 June 2016).

2. Julia Margaret Cameron, V&A

Free to all

Just two years after first picking up a camera – a gift to her at the age of 48 – Julia Margaret Cameron wrote to the director of the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A Museum), Henry Cole, and asked him if he would display her photographs. Cole was so impressed he agreed to buy them, staging the only exhibition she would have during her lifetime. To mark the bicentenary of Cameron's birth the V&A presents 100 photographs from her extraordinary career, including the original prints she sold to the museum and the letters of correspondence between her and Cole (28 November–21 February 2016).

3. Elisabeth Frink: The Presence of Sculpture, Nottingham Lakeside Arts

Free to all

Elisabeth Frink was an insatiably prolific artist whose hectic pace of sculpting led her to create more than 400 works during the course of her career – all without the aid of studio assistants. Wholly figurative, her oeuvre included what were known as 'goggled heads', as well as male nudes, horses, cats, dogs and birds. This show in Nottingham narrows in on the commissions she created for social housing, religious buildings and other urban developments in the post-war years, explored from the point of commission to final public display (until 28 February 2016).

4. Lee Miller: A Woman's War, IWM London

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Although often remembered as the model and muse of Man Ray, Lee Miller was, in fact, a talented photographer in her own right. During the Second World War she was hired by Vogue as an official correspondent – a gritty role that took her to field hospitals in Normandy, concentration camps in Dachau and Buchenwald, and even Hitler’s own apartment. This exhibition reveals her gender-oriented approach to documenting the conflict: her photography is devoted to capturing the vital, yet often overlooked role that women played in the war (until 24 April 2016).

5. Schiaparelli and Thirties Fashion, Manchester Art Gallery

Free to all

Celebrated as the designer who clothed Marlene Dietrich and Wallis Simpson, Elsa Schiaparelli's unique art-inspired approach to fashion had a dramatic impact on 1930s style. Her bold and ambitious designs earned her a range of flamboyant clients and a reputation as one of the few outstanding women couturiers. Not everyone was convinced of her genius: Coco Chanel snootily referred to her as ‘that Italian artist who makes dresses’ (until 9 October 2016).

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