Collection: Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker

6 May - 27 August 2023

Rooms 6 - 10, Beit Wing

The National Gallery of Ireland has today announced the launch of its major summer show Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker, which will go on display in the Beit Wing from 6 May to 27 August 2023. A ground-breaking artist of her time, late sixteenth-century Bolognese artist Lavinia Fontana is widely considered to be the first woman artist to achieve professional success beyond the confines of a court or a convent. The exhilarating new exhibition, which features a number of never-before-seen works, has been made possible with the support of Bank of America. 

Dr Aoife Brady, Curator of the exhibition, said: “The National Gallery of Ireland is delighted to present the landmark show Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker, the first monographic exhibition of the artist’s work in almost 30 years. This exhibition will showcase over 50 remarkable works drawn from across Europe and the United States, both from galleries and private collections, and is the largest known display of Fontana’s works to date. The exhibition will also include Renaissance manuscripts, textiles and decorative arts, which will make for an all-encompassing experience for visitors.”

A woman of exceptional talent and achievement, Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) was the first woman to manage her own workshop, and the first woman to paint public altarpieces, and the female nude. Trained by her father, Prospero, she became a well-respected professional painter and highly sought-after portrait artist in her native Bologna, and maintained an active career, painting for many illustrious patrons, while also taking on the role of wife and mother. 

Dr Aoife Brady continued: “Fontana truly was a trailblazer for women artists, her story is still inspirational and paves the way for a society we still aspire to today. Unable to study in artists’ academies like her male contemporaries, she learned her trade from her father, before running her own workshop. She continued to actively work throughout motherhood and had 11 children during the course of her career, while serving as her family’s main breadwinner.”

Exhibition information:
Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker 
Beit Wing, National Gallery of Ireland
6 May - 27 August 2023
Curators: Dr Aoife Brady, Curator of Italian and Spanish Art, National Gallery of Ireland

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