Farewell Feminist Art Historian Linda Nochlin

Farewell Feminist Art Historian Linda Nochlin

On Sunday the world lost one of the first people to really look at the history of art through a feminist lens. This published author and scholar was Linda Nochlin. I remember reading her groundbreaking essay, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" (1971) back when I was a graduate student just becoming familiar with feminist discourse; now gender (and ethnic) studies are a part of any undergraduate's general education requirements. The essay was based on an actual question posed by an art dealer to Nochlin--and from then on there was no going back.

 Image via  Hyperallergic

Image via Hyperallergic

For Nochlin, feminist art history wasn't just about letting the question that would go on to become the title of her essay motivate scholars to provide lists of great female artists (See, Patriarchal Gallery Man! There are thousands and thousands!). What Nochlin argued for was to go deeper--question the societal assumptions of then and now.

When interviewed in 2015, Nochlin pointed out that though there are more women artists than ever before (and females in colleges make up 60% of students), the art market is still one that's male dominated. Those in positions of power have the influence on what kind of art has value and which artists are elevated to greatness.

The ripple effect of feminist scholarship and lines of thinking advocated by Nochlin undoubtedly will go on forever, and has certainly changed how I look at themes of inclusion/exclusion, who's in or out, and the dichotomies that dominate to this day.

For additional reading, check out a terrific illustrated anaylsis about Linda Nochlin here.

Image top: Kathleen Gilje, Linda Nochlin in Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Begère, (2005) via ArtNews.com. Nochlin's specialty as an art historican was in the period of Realism so it's great fun to see her portrait inserted into a famous work by famed Realist painter Edouard Manet!

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