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Linda Nochlin: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

[ photo: Linda Nochlin ]

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

Linda Nochlin, now the Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art at New York University, pioneered the field of feminist art theory with the 1971 publication of her essay, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?"

Two years earlier, a friend had dumped on her "a heap of roughly printed, crudely illustrated journals on coarse paper" - Redstockings Newsletter, Off Our Backs, Everywoman - and told her to read them. "I started reading and I couldn't stop. That night, reading until 2 a.m., making discovery after discovery, cartoonish lightbulbs going off in my head at a frantic pace, my consciousness was indeed raised, as it was to be over and over again within the course of the next year or so. A few weeks later, after a certain amount of thought but not much research outside of a thorough rereading of Simone de Beauvoir, I posted the following notice on the bulletin board in the art history office at Vassar:

Art 364b

November 25, 1969

I am changing the subject of the Art 364b seminar to: The Image of Women in the 19th and 20th Centuries. I have become more and more involved in the problem of the position of women during the course of this year and think it would make a most interesting and innovative seminar topic, involving materials from a variety of fields not generally included in art historical research. This would be a pioneering study in an untouched field."

And the rest, as they say, is art history.

VQ Spring 1994
Photo credit: George Lange