Exhibitions lift up forgotten women

In the spring of 2023, Prince Eugene’s Waldemarsudde highlights four female artists in the exhibition Women Pioneers – Visionary Landscapes. They were well established and appreciated during their time but have since fallen out of the art historiography. Now their artistry is highlighted in its own right through the exhibition with nearly 100 nature themed paintings.

Forgotten artistry

Naturmålning av Ellen Trotzig med titeln Utsikt från stenshuvud.
The painting “View from Stensudde” by Ellen Trotzig. Photo: Lars Engelhart, Prince Eugene’s Waldemarsudde.

The four artists Ester Almqvist, Anna Boberg, Ellen Trotzig and Charlotte Wahlström were all active in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The artists have been selected for their expressive and visionary landscape painting. During their lifetime, they received great attention, and in several cases both national and international awards, for their art. The previous art history writing on Swedish landscape painting from this period has particularly focused on male artistry. Through the exhibition, the question is raised as to how it is that certain artistry has been inscribed in an established tradition, while others have been left out.

Women around Vasa

The Vasa Museum also highlights the problem of forgotten women who have been erased from history in the exhibition “Women – always present, rarely seen”. The exhibition, which opened already in 2017, is about the fact that 17th-century women were of great importance. But also how they are largely invisible when we describe history, which we are trying to rectify.

New perspective gives new knowledge

Beata – one of the women from the exhibition at the Vasa Museum. Photo: Annelie Karlsson/SMTM

By going back to collections and source materials and looking for new perspectives and stories, new knowledge is gained. In the exhibition, four women are raised around the ship Vasa. Contemporary women were in principle in all professions and in all arenas. They made decisions, were farmers, teachers, blacksmiths, ran businesses and so on. This was the case, for example, with master shipbuilder Hybertsson’s wife Margareta Nilsdotter. She continued to run the shipyard after her husband’s death in 1627 and ensured that the Vasa was completed. She was thus the manager of one of Sweden’s largest workplaces at the time. By highlighting the women around Vasa and allowing them to have a more just presence at the museum, a truer picture of the Vasa ship and her contemporaries is given.

By making forgotten women visible and allowing them to have a presence in the museums, Prince Eugene’s Waldemarsudde and the Vasa Museum provide a more fair picture of art and history (5.1).