FOR years their works were ignored by the male dominated museum world. Supposedly radical artists’ groups refused to admit them.

Female artists were notoriously underrepresented in UK museums and art galleries.

It is a problem highlighted in a new exhibition at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery showing works from its collection that have been created solely by women.

The exhibition is a first for the Bath Road gallery.

Curator Sophie Cummings said: “Like a number of museums and art gallery collections, we really under-represent women. We looked through our collection of over 500 pieces of British art and discovered only 17 per cent were by female artists.”

For decades, the Swindon museum famed for its contemporary British art simply did not buy or commission works by women.

“We thought, let’s do an exhibition that just showcases the works of women artists,” said Sophie.

The show, called This Woman’s Work, features around 18 paintings and drawings from the vaults.

One of curator Sophie’s favourite pieces in the show was a painting by Sylvia Gosse. More famous for her printmaking, Gosse was a member of the profession’s royal society. But her gender barred her from some of the biggest artists collective of the period, like the Camden Town Group from which women were explicitly excluded.

Sophie said of the 1915 painting: “It shows a woman using a printing press. She looks practical, she looks competent, she even looks busy.

“She’s not presented as just a pretty subject to enjoy. I find it really interesting.”

Although not a self-portrait, the painting by Royal Academy of Art-trained Gosse was autobiographical, the curator added. The museum bought the painting in 1978.

Also featured in the exhibition are Welsh painter Gwen John and Modernist Mary Fedden.

“I’m really keen to see how people respond to these women artists,” said Sophie. “We will always display works of art we think are brilliant and interesting. But at the same time we want our art to reflect the society.

“It’s about being open and welcoming.”

This Woman’s Work: Female Artists in the Swindon Collection runs until Saturday, March 16, 11am – 4.30pm. Free entry.

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