It is not often that art history reflects women’s efforts, yet alone large-scale exhibitions, however this new exhibition at the AGO brings together centuries of new heroines. Titled Making Her Mark: A History of Women Artists in Europe, 1400-1800, this multi-sensory space brings together more than 230 objects from royal portraits to metal work, ceramics, textiles, and cabinetry to demonstrate the efforts of women across Europe. 

There is no doubt that Europe engaged in the grandiosity of the arts from the 1400s to 1800s. Notable periods such as the Baroque and Renaissance eras occurred in this time frame proving these regions to reign in Euro-centric creativity. While many great works were produced, this exhibition highlights how art can diverge from traditional forms. Art at the time was not only limited to grand oil works, but rather extended to home decor and products that were incorporated into the daily lives of Europeans. 

Photo by Teresa Valenton

The exhibition was a beautifully curated space with the contents of each room flowing into the next. Each corner told the unknown stories of women’s contributions to the art scene. Although women were not offered the same resources as men to carry out a formal art education, their efforts were on par or extended far beyond. 

The craft that went into creating detailed works of everyday objects inspired me to dream beyond. A few pieces in particular that I enjoyed were Wigs on the Green by Sophia Jane Marie Bonnell and Mary Jane Harvey, and the intricate embroidery pieces utilized through day-to-day activities. The mundane uses of these objects juxtaposed the detail and artistry that went into them. I could not imagine using such a beautiful piece of art to its full potential without the fear of ruining the piece. However, I think it is telling of the times and the importance of utility in artistic spaces. 

As I made my way through the exhibition, I found myself enjoying the scent boxes curated by Dr. McBride the most. She developed scents that reflected the varying themes in these pieces of art which I thought was a great touch. Not only were the descriptions for each piece extremely informative and engaging, but these small details immersed me into this exhibition. 


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Though I was unfamiliar with many of the artists displayed such as Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Judith Leyster, this persuaded me to rethink the ways I learn about art history. I was definitely encouraged to think and look beyond the conventions of history books and to observe the works of lesser known. 

Beyond this exhibition, I have been rethinking the importance of cultural and historical competency. Though it is important to learn about women in the arts, this exhibition is still solely reflective of a Euro-centric standpoint of history. As learners, we must work to observe and preserve the works of women internationally. 

The exhibition is on now until July 1. For gallery hours and more information, head to the AGO site.