Great Women Artists: from Lavinia Fontana to Barbara Hepworth

7 week course: 29th May - 17th July 2020

This course is currently due to run in Cobham but we may run it online ( to be confirmed nearer the time )

In 2019 a portrait by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) set a record for any female Old Master when it was sold at Sotheby’s for $7.2m. In the same year the Prado Museum in Madrid dedicated an exceptional and highly acclaimed exhibition to the 16th-century Italian artists Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana, and this year the National Gallery and Royal Academy celebrate the work of Artemisia Gentileschi and Angelica Kauffman in two major monographic exhibitions.

These are promising and inspiring steps towards the revival and recovery of the reputations of many great female artists who achieved fame and renown amongst their contemporaries, but whose lives became obscured over time and whose work was often attributed to their male counterparts, a disturbingly common phenomenon. There is still much to be done to redress the balance: in 2018 Sotheby’s sold just 14 works by female Old Masters, compared to 1100 male artists. The Prado’s exhibition was only the second in its entire history dedicated to a female painter. And the National Gallery’s collection of works by female artists represents just 0.5% of its total holdings. However, thanks to the efforts of a number of scholars and to many high-profile institutions attempting to redress gender disparity in their collections, less familiar names such as Sofonisba Anguissola and Clara Peeters are again rising to the fore. We will learn about many of them in our series of lectures.

Our new course looks at the fascinating and complex role that women have played as painters, draftsmen, photographers and sculptors from 1500 to the modern day. How were women such as Artemisia Gentileschi able to make a living in an essentially male-dominated industry, and why have they fallen into obscurity today? We then explore later centuries when major figures under discussion include Elizabeth Louise Vigée le Brun, Marietta Robusti, Rosalba Carriera,  Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Berthe Morisot, Gwen John, Julia Margaret Cameron and Frida Kahlo. There will also be a special guest lecture celebrating the life and work of Barbara Hepworth.

Art History in Focus’s courses are characterised by a relaxed and entertaining learning environment, which often allows for lively discussion. Lectures last two hours with a break for refreshments, and the talks are illustrated by high quality digital images. A guest lecture by eminent author and art historian Dr Richard Stemp is included.

Lectures are on Friday mornings and run from 11.15-1.15; doors open at 11.00

Please note, July 17th will be an afternoon session from 2.30-4.30. There is no lecture on June 19th.


Further Information

Location and Directions
Churchgate House Centre
Downside Bridge Rd
Cobham, Surrey, KT11 3EJ.

To view a map of the Churchgate House Centre location click here

There is free parking at the centre, although if you are unable to find a space you can park in one of the nearby roads or in the pay and display car park on Hollyhedge Road. There is further free parking on the left just over the bridge on Downside Bridge Road.

The course is open for all to join. If you would like to attend please fill in the online booking form. If you would prefer to send a booking form by post please download a copy here.  

Once your booking has been accepted, we will notify you by email. If you have not received an email confirmation, please check your ‘deleted items' and 'junk mail' folders. If you have not received a confirmation please do contact us to ensure that we have received your booking.

If you are unable to make a session you are welcome to invite a friend or relative who can replace you, just let us know a few days in advance.

We regret we are unable to offer refunds on unused course subscriptions, but your place may be transferred to someone else if you are unable to attend (please provide their name in advance, thank you)

A detailed lesson plan will be emailed to all participants approximately one week before the course begins.

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for booking this event

Images: from left to right, self-portraits of Sofonisba Anguissola © Lancut Museum, Poland; Lavinia Fontana © Accademia di San Luca, Rome; Artemisia Gentileschi © The Royal Collection, London; Adélaïde Labille-Guiard © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Photograph of Barbara Hepworth holding a file with The plaster for Curved Form (Bryher II),1961, © Bowness, Hepworth Estate


  • A celebration of women artists from the medieval to the modern period
  • Meet people with similar interests
  • Refreshments included
  • Special guest lecture included



To book, please complete our online booking form.

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If you have any questions regarding the course or booking please send us an email or
call on +44 (0)1932 267322

Recommended Reading

Visit the AHF bookstore for a list of recommended books and products to accompany this course/event.


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