In praise of older women


If the pram in the hall is the enemy of good art, what happens when the babies grow up and the pram is replaced by a Zimmer frame? Until recently, most women did not live long enough for us to find out. But now old age among female artists and writers is the new chic, as increased longevity trumps the time-worn complaint that after 50 a woman is socially and professionally invisible. In the 21st century, creative women in their eighties and nineties such as Louise Bourgeois (born 1911), Leonora Carrington (born 1917) and Diana Athill (born 1917) emerged from the tunnel of obscure middle-age to become glamorous if not household, at least drawing-room names. In 2010 the prominence of such figures in the visual arts became inescapable. The National Gallery in London is currently showing 79-year-old Bridget Riley’s engagement with the Old Masters (to May 22). At Frankfurt’s Städel Museum the furious neo-expressionist work of 91-year-old Austrian Maria Lassnig concludes a survey of paintings from the 14th to the 21st centuries (to June 26). In Paris, the most flamboyant installation in the Tuileries for this autumn’s FIAC was the mirrored sculpture “Narcissus Garden” by Yayoi Kusama, who is 81 and lives in a Tokyo mental hospital. Surreal Friends, a British touring exhibition which closed last week, introduced 93-year-old English-Mexican artist Carrington’s menacing surreal paintings to a wide new audience.

more from Jackie Wullschlager at the FT here.