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To celebrate International Women’s Day and to showcase the partnership between Art UK and Open Arts Objects, we’re excited to announce a chance to participate in the creation of a new film for Open Arts Objects!

In March 2019, you’ll have the opportunity to choose one of four artworks created by four female artists, housed in collections across the UK – and the best part? We’ll create a short film on the work which will be open access and available to all.

2019 is a particularly important year to invite the nation to vote on an artwork by a woman artist and reflect on the role women have played in the arts, as well as the importance of opening up access for all. The year 2019 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Open University. Instrumental to the foundation of the OU was Jennie Lee, who was also dedicated to widening participation in the arts. As Britain's first Minister of Arts under Harold Wilson's government, she argued that culture should be inclusive.

Art UK and the Open University continue that legacy by providing resources that are free and open access. By choosing to concentrate on female artists from the past and present, we want to show the challenges and opportunities women faced, and still face, in the arts.

We’ll be running a social media poll on 8th March to give you the chance to select the next Open Arts Object. Here are the four fantastic artworks:

Mary Beale’s Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Self Portrait c.1675

Mary Beale (1633–1699)

West Suffolk Heritage Service

Mary Beale was an English portrait painter who moved in intellectual circles. She was the daughter of a clergyman and painted many portraits of churchmen. She was in considerable demand in the peak of her career, around the time she painted this self portrait. Perhaps we’ll get to know the talented artist a little better if the artwork is selected.

Angelica Kauffmann’s Alexander Gordon (1742–1827), 4th Duke of Gordon, Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland

From an early age, the Swiss painter Angelica Kauffmann travelled with her father in Switzerland and Italy and formed her style in Rome. She moved to London in 1766 and soon after became a founding member of the Royal Academy (the only other woman in this select group was Mary Moser). This portrait shows the young duke holding a miniature of his wife, although they did not enjoy a happy marriage and separated in 1793.

Bridget Riley’s Kashan


Kashan 1984

Bridget Riley (b.1931)

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Bridget Riley is one of the outstanding figures of post-war British art and best known as a leading figure in the Op Art movement. The title of this piece refers to the Iranian province which was a traditional centre of the silk trade. Kashan was one of the initial works where Riley began her exploration of depth.

Annie Louisa Swynnerton’s Montagna Mia

Montagna Mia

Montagna Mia c.1923

Annie Louisa Swynnerton (1844–1933)

Manchester Art Gallery

The Manchester-born painter represented women of all ages and walks of life. She was a pioneering artist who challenged convention at a time when women's roles and opportunities were changing. Montagna Mia depicts a mystical scene where a naked woman lies across what appears to be a mountain range, believed to be inspired by the Italian countryside that she loved.

Open Arts Objects film and teaching support materials are all free and open access and can be found on the Open Arts Archive. You can also find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube!

Leah Clark, Senior Lecturer: Art History at The Open University

Art UK ran the social media poll on International Women's Day, Friday 8th March 2019 and the results are in! Bridget Riley was the winner and her painting Kashan will be the subject of the new Open Arts Objects film. Keep an eye on Art UK in the coming months and don't forget to follow @OpenArtsObjects.