Shut your eyes and picture an Impressionist painter. Do they have a beard and a wounded expression? Is there an exquisitely wrought depiction of a haystack at their elbow and a glass of vin rouge in their hand? Are they firmly ensconced in a Parisian café? Chances are, they are at least one of these things; what is most unlikely is that they are a woman.
Why were so many female artists airbrushed from history?
By the time Virginia Woolf wrote, “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman,” the world was ready to recognise her for it, working as she was in an era when a few successful women at least could be celebrated by later generations. The same could not be said for Sofonisba Anguissola or Angelica Kauffman.
Kevans’s portraits, on oil-primed paper, with loose, thick lines, muted backgrounds and immediate, direct eyelines, are created from the few pictures that survive of these largely forgotten women.