Browse the Minneapolis Institute of Art Paintings Collections. How many women artists did you find? Art Historians and feminists today question the absence of women artists in art history. Research has emphasized the underlying problem being a general devaluation of women in society.
Linda Nochlin, a leader in feminist art history studies, wrote the essay titled Why have there been no great women artists? , she immediately responds by stating ” because women are incapable of greatness”; by getting that fallacy out of the way it allows her to explore “the assumptions behind such a question”.
Her essay addresses the time period and the lack of academic training both formal and artistic provided to women. Women’s role in society was wife, mother, and homemaker, permitting her to study only the arts that would benefit the family, such as textile work.
Nochlin also considers women’s inability to participate in social situations, by this depriving them of patronage. During this time social events were privy to men exclusively and prohibited women.
The only acceptable way for a woman to penetrate the art world was by using art to reflect social realities that imply the preoccupations and conditions of the period. Genres were limited to Still Life’s or anything pertaining to the status of a woman, including her marital status or accomplishments, such as musical or artistic achievement. Note the Lute that Artemisia holds in her self-portrait.
One progressive female fought her way into our history books, the infamous Artemisia Gentileschi, who can be seen at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The famed Artemisia was a Baroque painter and one of the most accomplished followers of Caravaggio’s dramatic realism.
Due to the shortage of women artists, historians still questions how much Artemisia’s highly publicized rape trial has contributed to her recognition; not only due to the overwhelming interest in her case but the psychological trauma it caused clearly exists in her paintings that depict themes of revenge and violence. Artemisia was seduced by her teacher and fellow painter Agostino Tassi; whose work conveniently hangs next to Artemisia’s at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
This episode seems to overshadow much discussion of the painter and has come to distort our vision of her. Would Artemisia be acknowledged today had she not had suffered the violations she did? Merely a personal opinion but Artemisia’s name should be recognized among the “great artists”. She is a model of strength and heroine of resistance to patriarchy.
“Why have there been no great women artists?” This is clearly the result of a culture where only rich white men had the time and the means to educate themselves and to pursue scientific investigation as their personal hobby.