Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful
This program is over. Hope you didn't miss it!
Browse other programs we offer

Four Pivotal American Women Artists

4 Session Afternoon Course

Monday, June 20, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to Thursday, June 23, 2022 - 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2204
Select Your Tickets
$80 - Member
$90 - Non-Member
Powered by Zoom

Materials for this program

  1. Handout

Mother and Child (A Goodnight Hug) by Mary Cassatt, 1880

Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Nevelson, and Cindy Sherman worked at different periods and in different media and styles. However, they did share one thing:  the desire to ignore society’s dictates and live and work according to their own. Art historian Nancy G. Heller examines how these controversial American artists helped to ignite some of the most important and radical developments in modern and contemporary painting, sculpture, and photography.

The week’s sessions are lavishly illustrated with examples of major works created by all four women, plus extensive biographical and comparative materials.

June 20  Mary Cassatt: A Pennsylvanian in Paris

The radical late 19th-century style known as impressionism was born, and focused, in Paris, yet one of its principal exponents was an American expatriate. Cassatt’s luscious landscapes and tender portraits of women and children exemplify the impressionists’ interest in fleeting images of everyday subjects, depicted as they were actually perceived by the human eye, not according to the strictures imposed by academic training.

June 21  Georgia O’Keeffe: More Than Just Flowers and Skulls

This iconic artist is best known today for the striking and colorful works she painted during her long residence in New Mexico. However, it was actually the Wisconsin-born artist’s astonishing early experiments with abstraction in the form of watercolors and charcoal drawings created between 1910 and 1920 that initially established her place in the history of American modernism.

June 22  Louise Nevelson:  Grande Dame of Abstract Sculpture

As a Russian Jewish immigrant in rural Maine, Nevelson was an unlikely candidate for artistic superstardom. But her ability to identify the beauty in such humble materials as discarded scraps of wood, plus her remarkable sense of design and her carefully cultivated, highly theatrical persona, made this artist a major presence on the New York art scene for many decades. To this day Nevelson’s signature sculptures—monochromatic, wall-like assemblages—are still readily identifiable, and often imitated.

June 23  Cindy Sherman: Self-Portraits That Look Nothing Like Her

The most-prominent member of the so-called “Pictures Generation,” beginning in the early 1980s Sherman upended the venerable concept of self-portraiture by taking unrecognizable photographs of herself, her face and body obscured by elaborate makeup, wigs, costumes, and prosthetic devices. Sherman’s work, which rapidly achieved both commercial success and scholarly recognition, played a major role in establishing photography’s new identity as an art form equal in importance to painting and other, more traditional, techniques.

Heller is a professor emerita at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the author of the book Women Artists: An Illustrated History.

4 sessions

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*

Patron Information

  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.
  • Unless otherwise noted, registration for streaming programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

American Women's History Initiative

This online program is presented on Zoom.