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  • La Nau, centre cultural
Illustration of Paula Sanz Caballero
© Paula Sanz Caballero

Centre Cultural La Nau.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Over the past years, illustration has acquired great importance and is evident in every communication channel, as well as in the social scene. Valencia is, along with other Spanish cities, a good example of city that nurtures its cultural offer with all sorts of illustration and comic related events. This blossoming is also being experienced in other countries such as Germany, with the Berlin Festival Illustrative; or Italy, with the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Apart from these internationally recognised events, with a simple search, it is easy to find many festivals, markets, biennials and activities that fill with illustration the cultural calendars of many towns: The International Congress Ilustrafic, in Valencia; Ilustrísima, in the ABC Museum of Drawing and Illustration in Madrid; Valladolid Ilustrado; Ilustración Irudika professional meeting, in Vitoria-Gasteiz; and many others. In Spain, it would be difficult to list all of them.
 
Before such booming scenario, we suggest elaborating a reference exhibition based in the Community of Valencia to make visible the role of women in the profession. Why another illustration exhibition? Is it necessary to make a genre division to make female illustrators’ work visible? Absolutely, yes.
 
In most professional areas, and specifically in history of art, women’s work has not been granted with the same value as men’s work. In the most important historic collections, women’s work is hardly found and, in the existing works, there are mainly still lives, landscapes and self-portraits. This shows the position that women occupied in an area ruled by men. As an example, the Museo Nacional del Prado, one of the best museums in Europe only exhibits six artworks performed by women. Figures are obvious: only three women painters have the honour of being part of its collection. They are the Italian Renaissance Sofonisba Anguissola, the Flemish Clara Peeters and the Italian Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi.[1] Most of the manuals exclude them, even though it is widely known that there where Renaissance women in the courts, sculptors and religious painters that were silenced. Sofonisba Anguissola, who holds the fortune of having a work in this collection, painted one of the most famous portraits of Felipe II, which was attributed to the painter Sánchez Coelho for centuries. Later on, it was shown that it was her artwork. On the other hand, Clara Peeters is the only woman the Museum dedicated an individual exhibition to in its 200 years of history. As the Guerrilla Girls said in 1989, when they placed a banner in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that read: Must women be naked to get in the MET? Less than 5% of the artists in modern art sections are women, but 85% of the nude paintings are female. Centuries later, the presence and recognition of women’s art were still limited. There is a repeating pattern: the doubt that women can match men ‘creativity’.
 
 
 
 
 
© Nani Serrano
 
 
 
 
 
These few examples of an unmanageable problem justify the questions that gave rise to this exhibition, and make us question the origin of this boom that illustration is experiencing: What happens with female illustrators? Have they suffered the same ostracism degree as female artists throughout history? The exhibition is not only a genre commitment, but a requirement of equality to position Valencian female illustrators’ work. Besides being forgotten, they went unnoticed due to male dominance at that time and managed to develop their career fighting against social, family, and inherent constraints in the sector.
 
At the beginning of the project, we were astonished by the difficulty in finding any reference to female illustrators during the period of the Republic and the following Dictatorship, but to be honest, we expected this. Since the early XX century, existed in Valencia a prestigious illustrators’ school: Ambrós, Raga, Climent, Arturo Ballester, Vicente Ballester, Diago, Cabedo, Dubón, Pérez-Contel, Petit Guillem, Castelló Gastón, Sanz Miralles, Renau, Monleón and many others. With little research on the topic, dozens of great artists come up, men who worked on the image of Las Fallas festival, festivities, and bullfighting posters. Regarding women, there is no trace. Being similar to what happened in the history of art; women were left hidden. Manuela Ballester was an exception, she achieved a certain degree of recognition by working close to Josep Renau, her partner. In Renau’s workshop also worked his sisters Rosa and Fina. According to our research, they did not only paint backgrounds of Ranau’s posters, but developed their own pictorial works. Another case is Piti Bartolozzi, usually known for being daughter of the great painter Salvador Bartolozzi, even though she should be given credit on her own merits.
 
Decades on, when large advertising agencies emerged in the 70s, women did not access relevant positions; they were relegated to less important positions as studio assistants, final artwork producers, laboratory techniques or internal management. We are sure that there were women working in the creative departments, but once more their names have not been made known.
 
 
 
 
 
© Fina Fuertes
 
 
 
 
 
It was not until the 80s, the golden age of the artistic creation, when names of female illustrators that usually appeared on comic magazines, worked in an advertising studio or similar activities. It goes without saying that they did not come out of nowhere, and their work, along with the work of their female predecessors, deserve recognition. Likewise, society should award them with the position they should have always held as the great professionals they were. Apart from the abovementioned reasons, we want to highlight women work’s value because women working during this period on comics, cartoons, as well as on design, advertising or architecture were relegated to tasks considered secondary, such as script or inking. Women were limited to assistant positions or worked under a pseudonym that hid their real identity. In addition, cartoons from magazines targeted to female public, in many cases drawn by men, were alienating and addressed girls in dreamlike terms of fairies, enchantments and following a domestic indoctrination. I was that obvious that bordered on the obscene.
 
From a historiographical perspective that ranges from the first decades of the 20th century to the present (pointing out in a brief but significant way the 16th century engravers and printers), the exhibition places special emphasis on those pioneering illustrators whose works have not received the deserved recognition, thus showing the evolution and the increase of the collective in our community. Starting from this temporal dimension, we divide the content into three lines of work: the first is the editorial illustration, which includes works published in magazines, newspapers, textbooks, and novels. The second is advertising and signage, in which we have added a section dedicated to illustration applied to the product. And the third line is the one of the comic, cartoon, graphic novel or illustrated book. All the female illustrators on the exhibition participate in one of these three blocks, sometimes even in several, since currently the professionals are characterized by addressing different subjects within their own creative discipline.
 
Our main objective has been to focus the exhibition on female drawers and not on female artists dedicated to any other plastic discipline (painting or sculpture, for example) and to emphasize their presence in the profession during years in which, as we have pointed out, male names were well known but not the female ones. In addition, we believe that it is important to accommodate the largest possible number of female illustrators in the exhibition, to expose the wide variety of themes and formats existing in the illustrations created by female authors and thus show the versatility of the work of all of them. An effort that results in works and publications that we hope will be valued for their quality, regardless of gender, and that will help to eliminate, in the not too distant future, labels that continue to drag today, such as "women’s comics", "women's illustration" or "sensitive look".
 
 
 
 
 
© Paula Sanz Caballero
 
 
 
 
 
It is evident that, with the passage of time, this situation has positively evolved positioning female authors in the front line. Social networks have been a key tool to disseminate and place the work of illustrators, a kind of speaker with which to rise and become perceptible as the great professionals they are. This boom is supported by the figures. According to the Collective of Female Authors of Comic (AC) that annually presents a list of works of female authors published in the main publishers of Spain, during the year 2017 were counted up to 100 participating works and/or created by comic book female authors. In their blog you can see figures from previous years, which show the increase in recent years. On the other hand, this peak also raises other questions: Will female illustrators be able to maintain a professional career in this field? Will they end up hidden again by a commercial gear, within the idyllic conciliation? Is society really prepared to assume real equality in the frantic race against time that a profession in the cultural field entails?
 
In addition, we have had the inestimable cooperation of experts in the field whose research and points of view have been key to nurture the exhibition and this publication. Their contributions have allowed us to deepen in the life and work, as well as the circumstances and personal stories of Valencian female illustrators. Our most sincere appreciation to Clara Berenguer, Carla Berrocal, Xavi Calvo, David Heras, Vicent Ibiza i Osca, M.ª Carmen Martínez Ortega, Elisa McCausland, Miguel C. Muñoz Feliu, Álvaro Pons, Pedro Porcel, Nuria Rodríguez and Eva Solaz for joining the project.
 
 
 
 
 
© Cristina Durán
 
 
 
 
 
The great implication of all the female illustrators involved, whose help has been essential to create this exhibition, should also be noted. Lastly, we would like to apologise for not including, due to spacing, other professionals we would have loved to have collaborated with. The good side of this is this is a prove that there are many great female illustrators of such talent – there are so many, it is hard to include them all. Since the revolution which began in the 80s and after so many years of silence, this collective has not ceased to grow and there is a bright future ahead of it. These women dominate the illustration scene in Valencia.
 
“Ocultes i il·lustrades. Creixement i èxit de les il·lustradores a València” is a much needed and well deserved tribute to all of them: those of yesterday for their career and those of today for their future and recognition. We must also thank three experts in the field for their support and excellent work. Their wish of integrating and strengthening the community of Valencian female illustrators has been essential in helping bringing together all publics within reference institutions such as Centre Cultural La Nau and the University of Valencia, to which we are indebted. We can only wish that this is the last exhibition with this point of view – from now one, we hope that we only talk about the talent of the illustrators, without taking into account their gender.
 
Cristina Chumillas - MacDiego - Melani Lleonart
Curators
 
 
PRESS RELEASE
WORKSHOP
DISSEMINATION ELEMENTS
 

[1]  Source: Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.es/2018/03/06/el-museo-del-prado-solo-expone-seis-obras-de-mujeres-son-estas_a_23375343/

 
 
 
Jaume I, rei de Catalunya - Aragó, 1208-1276, Chronica, o comentaris del gloriosissim, e inuictissim Rey en lacme primer... dictada per aquell
en sa llengua natural, e de nor feyta estampar per los Iurats de la insigne ciutat de Valencia...,
En Valencia: en casa de la  viuda de Ioan Mey Flandro, 1557
 
 
 
 
 

IL·LUSTRADORES PARTICIPANTS:

 
ADA SINACHE
AITANA CARRASCO
ANA MIRALLES
ANA ONCINA
ANA PENYAS
ANA PETERS
ANABEL COLAZO
ANTONIA GÓMEZ (VIUDA DE ORGA)
CACHETEJACK
CARLA FUENTES
CRISTINA DE COS-ESTRADA
CRISTINA DURÁN
CONSUELO ARIZMENDI
ESTRELLA BASCUÑÁN
FINA FUERTES
JERÓNIMA GALÉS (VIUDA DE MEY, VIUDA DE HUETE)
JUANA FRANCISCA (PAQUITA RUBIO)
JUANA MILLÁN
JULIA CEJAS
LAURA CASTELLÓ
LAURA PÉREZ
LINA VILA
LIRIOS BOU
LOLA LORENTE
LOURDES BELLVER
LYDIA SÁNCHEZ
MAR HERNÁNDEZ 
MARÍA ÁNGELES MONLEÓN
MARÍA HERREROS
MARÍA MONTES
MARÍA PILAR SANCHIS
MARTA ANTELO
MARTA CHAVES
MILA BOUTAN
MIREIA PÉREZ
NANI SERRANO
NATHALIE ORTEGA
NURIA RIAZA
NÚRIA TAMARIT
NYDIA LOZANO
PAULA BONET
PAULA SANZ CABALLERO
PAULAPÉ
PILAR MIR
PITTI BARTOLOZZI
REME BELTRÁN
ROSA DELTORO
ROSANNA CRESPO
SABINA ALCARAZ
SEÑORA LUDOVISI
VICTORIA FRANCÉS
VICKY
VIRGINIA LORENTE
XULIA VICENTE
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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