Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? – Linda Nochlin (1971)

“‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?‘ is a 1971 essay by American art historian Linda Nochlin. It is considered a pioneering essay for both feminist art history and feminist art theory. In this essay, Nochlin explores the institutional – as opposed to the individual – obstacles that have prevented women in the West from succeeding in the arts. She divides her argument into several sections, the first of which takes on the assumptions implicit in the essay’s title, followed by ‘The Question of the Nude,’ ‘The Lady’s Accomplishment,’ ‘Successes,’ and ‘Rosa Bonheur.’ In her introduction, she acknowledges ‘the recent upsurge of feminist activity’ in America as a condition for her interrogation of the ideological foundations of art history, while also invoking John Stuart Mill‘s suggestion that ‘we tend to accept whatever is as natural’. In her conclusion, she states: ‘I have tried to deal with one of the perennial questions used to challenge women’s demand for true, rather than token, equality by examining the whole erroneous intellectual substructure upon which the question Why have there been no great women artists? is based; by questioning the validity of the formulation of so-called problems in general and the problem of women specifically; and then, by probing some of the limitations of the discipline of art history itself.’  First published in 1971 as ‘Why Are There No Great Women Artists?’ in Woman in Sexist Society: Studies in Power and Powerlessness, Nochlin’s essay was revised, retitled ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ and published in ArtNews. … The essay has been reprinted regularly since then, including in Nochlin’s Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays and Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader. ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ is generally considered required reading for the fields of feminist art history and feminist art theory inasmuch as it calls out the institutional barriers to the visual arts that women in the Western tradition historically faced. Nochlin considers the history of women’s lack of art education as well as the nature of art and of artistic genius as they are currently defined. The essay has also served as an important impetus for the rediscovery of women artists, followed as it was by the exhibition Women Artists: 1550-1950. … ”
Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? – Linda Nochlin (January 1971 issue of ARTnews)
An Illustrated Guide to Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”
Linda Nochlin Explores the Role of Women in the Arts in a Previously Unaired Interview
W – Linda Nochlin

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