When it comes to art, the term “Old Master” is with us for a reason: For centuries it’s been the male artists who have attracted the interest of art historians. Great collectors and museums have paid scant attention to the existence of talented women artists from periods such as the Italian Renaissance.

But the landscape is changing, and nowhere more noticeably than in Florence, the city known as the “cradle of the Renaissance.” This past summer one of its most famous museums, the Uffizi, kicked off a series of exhibitions dedicated to the work of women artists from the past. —

Eike Schmidt, who became the Uffizi’s director in 2015 after a stint at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, says he drew inspiration from the Guerilla Girls, a group of feminist art activists, who told him that many museums have the works of women artists, but they’re kept in storage.

Schmidt says once he got to the Uffizi, he discovered “that we are the museum with the largest collection of works of arts by women before the 19th century.”

Schmidt says he set to work getting as many of these paintings out of storage as possible, including a large collection of self-portraits by women. This year the Uffizi also held the first in what will be a series of annual exhibitions devoted to women artists of the past. The event will open every year on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day.

But it is not just the Uffizi looking to change perspectives on art from the past. The Advancing Women Artists Foundation was founded in Florence ten years ago by Jane Fortune, an art lover and philanthropist from Indiana who’s author of the book,…