When you think of contemporary painters who made an impact on the world who comes to mind? You might think of Andy Warhol and his famous Campbell’s Soup cans or maybe Roy Lichtenstein and his comic book-inspired paintings. What you may not realize is how many female painters have made, and are currently making, just as much of an impact.

In this article you will find 11 women who helped change the direction of art and propelled contemporary art to where it is today. Their work spans the last 50 years and they’ve helped female artists around the world feel more empowered to share their story.

Modern 21st Century Female Artists: Contemporary Female Painters That Changed The Art World

1. Frida Kahlo

21st Century Mexican Female Painter

frida kahlo
Frida Kahlo (1904-1954). Source: FridaKahlo.org

Frida Kahlo’s art not only made an impact on her native country of Mexico but the entire world. Her paintings gave us an in-depth look into her world, from her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera to her inability to have children. When you look at her work you can truly feel her pain and get a glimpse of the person she was.

memory, the heart by frida kahlo. famous female contemporary painter
Memory, the Heart 1937 by Frida Kahlo. Source: FridaKahlo.org

2. Jenny Saville

Contemporary British Female Painter

jenny saville - famous british female contemporary painter
Jenny Saville (1970-?)

Jenny Saville has been an internationally acclaimed oil painter for decades due to her powerful, large-scale paintings of the female body.
She changed the world of figure painting and challenged how nudes of women, in particular, were painted. The forms she paints are exaggerated and dramatic instead of flawless and pretty.

red stare collage by jenny saville - contemporary female artist. painter.
Red Stare Collage (2007) by Jenny Saville. Source: Gagosian

3. Marlene Dumas

Contemporary South African Female Painter

marlene dumas - famous contemporary south african female painter
Marlene Dumas (1953-?) Source: Timeout

This South African painter is one of the most influential artists of our time. Marlene Dumas‘ striking pieces provide a peek into her childhood and what it was like to grow up in the apartheid. She is known for using strokes that emphasize movement and paint that is light and little translucent. Her paintings feel surreal and are full of ghostly figures that seem like they are born from a distant memory.

stern by marlene dumas
Stern (2007) by Marlene Dumas. Source: Tate

4. Julie Mehretu

Contemporary Ethiopian Female Painter

julie mehretu. famous contemporary ethiopian american female painter
Julie Mehretu (1970-?). Source: Wikipedia

Julie Mehretu is an Ethiopian artist whose large-scale abstract paintings have brought her global attention. Her paintings are full of texture, energy, and passion, which she creates through her use of layering multiple mediums.

Co-Evolution of the Futurhyth Machine (after Kodwo Eshun), 2013, by Julie Mehretu
Co-Evolution of the Futurhyth Machine (after Kodwo Eshun), 2013, by Julie Mehretu. Source: Marian Goodman Gallery

5. Elizabeth Peyton

elizabeth peyton
Elizabeth Peyton (1965-?). Source: The Talks

Contemporary American Female Painter

Elizabeth Peyton found herself in the spotlight because of her personal and stylized painting of her friends, lovers, and celebrities. She rose to fame in the 90s with some of her most well known which includes portraits of Jackie Kennedy, Kurt Cobain, and the Royal Family.

andro 2013 painting by elizabeth peyton
Andro (2013) by Elizabeth Peyton. Source: Gladstone Gallery

6. Jo Baer

Contemporary American Female Painter

jo baer. contemporary female american painter
Jo Baer (1929-?). Source: Wikipedia

Jo Baer helped bring attention to the minimalist art movement and is known for her deceivingly simple pieces. She is recognized for her use of symbols, geometry, and bold contrast. Through her work, she explored feminism, space, and our connection to our environment.

the sardana becomes infernal 1993-1994 painting by jo baer.
The Sardana Becomes Infernal (1993-1994) by Jo Baer. Source:JoBaer.net

7. Ida Applebroog

Contemporary American Female Multi-Media Artist (1929-?)

Ida Applebroog created powerful paintings that speak volumes about violence, sexuality, and gender politics. Applebroog began gaining momentum as an artist in the 70’s with her unique style that was full of broken images that felt cartoonish and a slightly disturbing. The figures she paints are relatable and alien at the same time.

winne's pooh painting by ida applebroog
Winne’s Pooh (1993) by Ida Applebroog. Source: art wrestler

8. Jane Frank

Contemporary American Female Painter

jane frank - 21st century famous female painter
Jane Frank (1918-1986). Source: askArt

Jane Frank’s abstract expressionist paintings of landscapes are known to transport you to another world. Her work was full of vibrant colors, rich textures, and abstract forms that formed aerial landscapes. She enhanced the feeling of each painting by mixing other mediums like pebbles and broken glass.

ledge of light 1974 painting by jane frank
Ledge of Light (1974) by Jane Frank. Source: WikiArt

9. Amy Sillman

Contemporary American Female Painter

amy sillman. contemporary female american artist painter
Amy Sillman (1955-?). Source: The Brooklyn Rail

Amy Sillman’s contribution to contemporary art spans across many mediums, but her abstract paintings are some of her most famous work. Her body of work has been developed over the last 4 decades and she continues to impact the art world through her illustrations, paintings, and videos.

SK8 2017 painting by amy sillman
SK8 (2017) by Amy Sillman. Source: Gladstone Gallery

10. Bracha L Ettinger

Contemporary Israel-born Female Painter

bracha l. ettinger. contemporary famous female painter
Bracha L Ettinger (1948-?) Source: The Global Center for Advanced Studies

Bracha is a highly influential artist, and her artistic footprint can be felt in many artistic communities from France to Tel Aviv. Her oil paintings focus on contrast and focusing on the reality of war and conflict.

Eurydice n. 5 (1994) by Bracha L. Ettinger. Source: WikiArt

11. Emmi Whitehorse

Emmi Whitehorse (1957-?). Source: Spaightwood Galleries

Contemporary Native American Painter

Emmi Whitehorse is a Native American painter who has inspired others through her soft abstract paintings. Her art reflects her passion for nature and her culture’s connectedness to it. Whitehorse’s paintings deliberately do not address any political movements or message. Her focus is on creating work that allows the viewer to get lost and find a quiet space within them to retreat.

emmi whitehorse. mapping fissures.
Mapping Fissures by Emmi Whitehorse. Source: Chiaroscuro

Now that you’ve seen what an impressive mark women have left on the world, what do you have to express? The beauty of painting and art, in general, is that you have the freedom to create whatever you want and truly lose yourself. So go show the world what you have in you, and you might be surprised to find out what kind of impact you can make.

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