Four remarkable European female artists from the Renaissance to Classicism carved out unusual careers in very different social settings, demonstrating a visionary spirit that was far ahead of their time.

They were exceptional in their work and fearless in their dealings with society: this film portrays four extraordinary female artists from the Renaissance to Classicism, who carved out unusual careers in very different social settings. Born into a noble Italian family, Sofonisba Anguissola established an international career in the 16th century, although some of her paintings were later wrongly attributed to Titian. Judith Leyster, a self-made Baroque artist from the Netherlands, was accepted into a painters’ guild at the age of just 23 and although unmarried ran her own workshop. After her death, her paintings were sold for high prices as Frans Hals “originals”. If her distinctive star-shaped monogram not been eventually discovered, she might have been forgotten forever. In her twenties, Swiss-Austrian artist Angelica Kaufmann was already emerging as one of Europe’s most prominent female painters. She became something of a trailblazer with her pictures at the end of the 18th century. After the French Revolution, Marie-Guillemine Benoist painted Portrait of Madeleine, which soon went on display at the Louvre. How did these women painters manage to gain “visibility” in times when women were forbidden to paint nudes or study with men in artists’ workshops?