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July 08, 2021

Edvard Munch. Vampire. 1895. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Board of Trustees Fund. BMA 1954.1 © Edvard Munch / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

The Samuel H. Kress Foundation provided support for the Baltimore Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition, Women Behaving Badly: 400 Years of Power and Protest. The exhibition features over 75 artworks that celebrate powerful women and their achievements and challenges the ways in which women have been trivialized or condemned through damaging gendered myths and stereotypes. By showcasing representations of powerful, defiant, and often misunderstood women, Women Behaving Badly explores the role of European and American art in both celebrating these women and condemning them.

Eugène Samuel Grasset. Jeanne d'Arc / Sarah Bernhardt (Joan of Arc / Sarah Bernhardt). 1890. The Baltimore  Museum of Art: Gift of Henry E. Treide. BMA 1956.85.18

Women who “behaved badly” by pushing boundaries and asserting agency were often trivialized, shamed, or punished by society. This exhibition explores the role that art has played in that dynamic in two main thematic sections. The first section examines Ancient Greek and Roman narratives, biblical stories, images of witches, vampires, and other embodiments of female temptation, illustrating the ways in which powerful women have historically been villainized. The second section presents more current depictions of formidable women, from the 1800s to the early 20th century. This section centers on women who began to break with traditionally domestic designations of wife and mother and asserted their independence - for example, Josephine Baker, Virginia Woolf, George Sand, and Sojourner Truth.

Rembrandt van Rijn. Adam and Eve. 1638. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Alfred R. and Henry G. Riggs in  Memory of General Lawrason Riggs. BMA 1943.32.221 

Women Behaving Badly features prints, photographs, and books from the European Renaissance to the early 20th century from the BMA’s collection, supplemented by loans from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Maryland Center for History and Culture, and private collections. The exhibition will run from July 18 to December 19, 2021. For more information, please visit