Scotland’s neglected female artists set for greater recognition after Wikipedia ‘edit-a-thons’

Forgotten, overlooked and neglected female Scottish artists are set to secure much greater recognition under a painstaking project to tackle an online “gender gap”.

The National Galleries of Scotland has worked with a group of specially-trained Wikipedia editors to achieve “greater parity” for women artists, fill significant gaps in knowledge and “rectify silences” about some of them.

The all-female group has already carried out six “edit-a-thons” of the online encyclopaedia after rigorously researching the lives and work of leading women artists who were based in Scotland.

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They discovered many of the female artists whose work is due to be prominently showcased in the new-look Scottish National Gallery when a revamp is completed next year were not represented at all on Wikipedia, while there were notable inaccuracies about others.

Drummond Castle, in Perthsire, by artist Susan Fletcher Crawford.

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    Galashiels-born Margaret Stirling Dobson, Glasgow artist Susan Fletcher Crawford and Armyne Ware, who was brought up in Aberdeenshire, along with Paisley-born artist Jessie Newbery and her daughter Mary Newbery Sturrock are among those to have had new articles written about them in recent months.

    Other articles which have been corrected include those devoted to Fife artist Christina Robertson, Phyllis Bone, who was brought up in Edinburgh, and Phoebe Anna Traquair, who spent much of her life in the city.

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    Jennifer Higgins, European and Scottish art librarian at the National Galleries, said: “From finding nothing online about some artists, to having their biographies now at the top of a Google search for their name, it’s been empowering for us as a group of women researchers to reveal their talents and talk about their lives.

    “The efforts of our dedicated and considerate editors have contributed to rectifying silences about Scottish women artists on Wikipedia and to closing the gender gap.

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    A self-portrait of Phoebe Anna Traquair, one of Scotland's best-known female artists.

    “We’ve created and improved articles for Scottish women artists whose art is ripe for research.

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    “This is only the start. There’s still much more to do to ensure the contribution of women to the art world is revealed, reinterpreted and revered as it evidently deserves to be.”

    One of those involved in the project, Jennifer Macleod, a researcher at Glasgow University, said: “‘I’m honoured to have been part of such an important project that is helping bring to the front the previously unheard life and work of Scottish women artists.

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    “So many of them were overshadowed in their lifetime by their male contemporaries and unfortunately have since been forgotten about.

    Bow, by Frances Macdonald MacNair, who was one of the celebrated ‘Glasgow Four’, with her sister Margaret Macdonald, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Herbert MacNair.
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    “This project will not only reconstruct their life stories, but also celebrate their achievements and work, which was equally as good and varied as their male counterparts.”

    Dr Patricia Allerston, co-director of “Celebrating Scotland’s Art”, the project to revamp the Scottish National Gallery, said: “Exploring and highlighting the significant contribution made by women artists is a key part of the project.

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    “The valuable research undertaken by volunteers through this Wikipedia-editing initiative helps us enormously in this important endeavour.

    “It also shows how much more there is still to do in addressing the frequently asked question – ‘where are the women in Scottish art history?’.

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    A portrait of Mary Newbery, an artist who became part of 'The Edinburgh Group' in 1919.

    “We look forward to showing works by the artists featured in this project in our exciting new changing displays of Scottish drawings and prints.”