“The method and the effect of our teaching are as important as the content of our curriculum”.(Mayberry & Rose, 1999)
Through a comprehensive review of literature, this study investigates the underrepresentation of women in art history, using the historical
foundation of women artist’s societal roles, struggles, and successes. As the researcher, it is important that women’s roles in art history are known and understood. The educational paradigm of this study requires the awareness and exploration
of women artists in art history. The model will reflect these aims. Griselda Pollock explains “The Story of Art, (written by Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich), a canonical history of art masquerades as the ‘only’ history of art”.
In regard to the exclusionary nature and content of this study, she goes on to ask, “Whose stories are told, in whose interest? Whose stories will we need to find? How can we read differently” (Pollock, 2003, p. xviii)?
An essay written by Linda Nochlin entitled, Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? (1971). Ms. Nochlin explores ground-breaking inquiry and the possible reasons why "greatness" in artistic accomplishment have been reserved for male geniuses.
Nochlin argues “general social expectations against women seriously pursuing art restrictions on educating women at art academies and the entire romantic, elitist, individual-glorifying, and monograph-producing substructure upon which the profession
of art history is based have systematically precluded the emergence of great women artists”.
On the National Museum of Women in Arts’ (NMWA) web site, they
concur with Pollock and Nochlin, "Hypothetically, if not in truth, we may conclude that works were better received with artist unknown, rather than to be attached to the name of a woman. Clearly it was an unacceptable notion that a woman was capable of creating
great art” (p. 1). Many artists from ancient times remain unknown, and perhaps Virginia Wolf was absolutely right, “for most of history, anonymous was a woman” (National Museum of Women in Arts, 1998).
Within this literature review, I include a brief survey of art history that examines the ideologies that shaped women's art production and their representation. Although most of the literature reflects the views of Feminist art historians, not all the literature
shares the political, social, aesthetic or economical views of the Feminist art historians. While most literature included women artists who have had some form of national or international recognition, for example, Georgia O’Keefe and Judith Leyster,
it is equally important to give recognition to some artists that have not been mentioned in traditional Art History education. In order to investigate these artists and issues, I wanted to identify the historical experiences of women artists in terms of education,
artistic practice, and social forces that affected their production or art work.
This research is Eurocentric in its focus (a study focusing on European culture or history
to the exclusion of a wider view of the world). It has an unavoidable emphasis because of the limitation of space and time. The literature reviewed within this study is in the English language or it is translated in English. As a result of this literature
review, Feminist art and artists, the histories of women artists, and the principles and goals of feminist pedagogy guide me in creating a Western art history course that will empower students.
Finding and reviewing the literature on the lives of women in art history and the obstacles that may have attributed to their underrepresentation was not problematic. I found a significant amount of literature on women missing in art history. Therefore, I
did not come to the point of saturation. Because of the breadth of literature, it was necessary to choose literature that linked most closely to the relevance and criteria of this study. I started my literature review with a look at feminist art and feminist
art history. At first, I thought that the feminist literature was off subject and not related to the women artists missing in art history curriculum. As I moved forward in my literature review, my ideas of feminist art not being relevant were absolutely incorrect.
The feminist art movement and its struggle through political activism were indeed important and relevant to this research. Without any doubt, the movement has had a great effect on the progress and the inclusion of more women artists since the 1970’s.
The feminist art movement is an important piece of art history. The information built a foundation and a way to show the rise and course of women artist represented in the art world. For these reasons, a fair amount of literature on the feminist art movement
is cited in this study.
In response to the issues and concerns during the 20th century feminist art movement, the literature review directed me to some important and significant
art history scholars, authors and researchers. These scholars have contributed a wealth of insights and historical data on the underrepresentation of women in art history. For instance, Linda Nochlin (1971, 1988, 2008), Griselda Pollock (1983,1999, 2003),
Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (1982. 1992, 2005), Wendy Slatkin (2001), and Whitney Chadwick (2002,2007). These women and others have spent a good portion of their professional careers writing on this subject. I find them very credible source for information,
views, and strong arguments on the underrepresentation of women in art history. The historians sited in this study also aided in deciphering the main Western distinctions and characterizations from one period of art history to the other.
From the women artist in history, feminist art, and the art movement, I moved to literature that focused on the analysis of feminist framework and feminist pedagogical practices. It was relative to the research questions to understand women artist's relationships,
roles and societal issues that dominated their art production.
THE EXCLUSION OF WOMEN IN ART HISTORY
Out of curiosity, I compared the number of men represented in an art history book verses the number of women represented. The World of Art: The Essential Illustrated History was the source used for comparison. This book began with the Gothic/Medieval
era to the Modern art era. The ratio of this typical world art history text presented men artist’s in favor of women by 13:1. (Belton, Belloli, & Holubizky, 2006). The inclusion of women artists compared to the number of men artists in the book increased
slightly as history moved forward to 160 men to 15 women artists. This indication of exclusion was the evidence I needed to start my passion driven journey and research into the underrepresentation of women artists in art history.
For the purpose of this study, the definition of ‘art’ is relative to the critique of the literature. What is art? There is not an easy answer. The difficulty seems to be that the definition changes with the times. Linda Nochlin and Griselda Pollock,
both ask the same question, “what is the definition of art?” They find that the definition of art or what constitutes as acceptable art is linked to the canon of the time. Within the literature review, we see that the definition of art changes
over time. It depends on the patron and for whom the art is produced. For instance, historian, Giorgio Vasari in the 1500’s (Vasari, 1998) saw art as divine.
some era’s art was defined by the amount of the artist’s skill and capabilities, in other times it was symbolism, both recorded events and nobility. Other times it is purely esthetics. It was what the artist saw with their eyes and it was what
they saw with their mind’s eye, or how they were able to express their feelings, etc. To gain a better understanding of the definition of art as it changes over time through the progress of industry, technology, culture, and society, this literature
review explores books, articles, and websites of highly revered art historians relative to this study. Also, the literature review explores what the history of art looked like from the beginning to what feminist scholars are discussing now. The review
illustrates the evolution of art history and is a nice segue into the history of women in art.
The Evolution of Art History
J.J. Winckelmann (1717-1768) and Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)
are credited with the initial documentation of art history. Starting with the writings of Vasari, his historical documentation of artists originated during the Renaissance era. Although, his writings on the history of art traced back to the thirteenth century,
most of his writings came by his association with fellow artists in Italy during his time.
Vasari is foremost a Renaissance artist but is better known for his historical
writings of fellow Italian artists. In the introduction of Vasari’s The Lives of the Artists, Volume One, the translator George Bull states, “Vasari’s historical theory of art is reasonably coherent, but he was no philosopher. His
theory of art, confused in any case, was largely expressed in the alarmingly imprecise language of Neo-Platonism” (Vasari, 1965, p. 15). His canonic norm by which he measured art is by aesthetics. Vasari associated his theory of artistic excellence
with a comparison the workmanship of ancient Greco/Roman art. According to the transcribed preface of Vasari’s Lives of the Artist, art is ceremonial, should be adorned, exhibited publicly, and he places a high value on works of excellence and
believes artists of such art deserve the highest honor and respect (Vasari & Bull, 1965).
Vasari (1998) is known for his many biographies of famous male Renaissance
artists in The Lives of the Artists. Vasari did write about four Renaissance women artists. These women are included in Vasari’s chapter on Properzia de'Rossi. I could not locate where these women are mentioned in Bull’s translated version,
but the four women were mentioned in the translation written by Julia Conway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella. Vasari writes within the four pages of this chapter, The Life of Madonna Properzia de'Ross, Sculptress of Balogna, about Sister
Plautilla Nelli, Sofonisba Anguissola, and Madonna Lucrezia as well as Properzia de’Rossi. In this chapter, he discusses his views and his amazement of these women artist’s skills. Even though his views are patronizing, he is complimentary in describing
their work. When he wrote of De’Rossi, he praised her work, “she would have created marvelous work if, like men, she had been able to study and work on design and to draw natural objects from life” (p. 342). Clearly this proves that, according
to Vasari, women artists are not inferior to male artists if women had the same opportunities. Asserting, if De’Rossi had the same exposure to training as men, she would have had an equal or superior outcome. He said Sofonisba Anguissola paintings
are rare and beautiful, and he stated of one of her drawings, “One could not see a more graceful and realistic drawing than this one” (p. 343). Vasari’s comment of De’Rossi parallels with comments of other women artists. Today, Sofonisba’s
work is well recognized and documented in the art history text books.
Vasari gave praise to Lucezia and Nelli’s art and skills, as well. Perhaps Vasari took
the lead to write about women artists from Historia Naturalis written by Pliny the Elder, a historian (not an art historian). The Historia Naturalis is an encyclopedia that contains information on works and artists from the Roman Empire and
ancient knowledge, circa AD 77-79. According to Whitney Chadwick, Pliny mentions six women; three are Greek and three are from the Hellenistic period. “Pliny relates nothing about Kalypso and tells us only that Helen of Egypt was known for painting a
Battle of Issus” (Chadwick, 2007, p. 32). Pliny mentioned in his encyclopedia Timarete, Artitarete, and Olympia from the Greek painters and Iaia of Kyziko and two other women identifies as daughters of painters (Chadwick, 2007). Pliny’s writings
show he believed that women could paint, unfortunately, none of their works were left to posterity and have disappeared over time.
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (2012), a German art historian, wrote and studied the history of art as far back as the ancient Greek and Roman era. Winckelmann’s work
on the ancient art has been cited in many publications that are mainly concerning with freedom in art. Winckelmann’s documentation of history is relevant to this study. While reading through The History of Ancient Art, (Winckelmann, 2012) I
did not find any mention of women artists, only mention of women deities or their beauty in an image in his critique of art. Although, he does mention the patrons, the audience, the historical forces that influenced the artist's creation, in turn, affect the
course of artistic, political, and social events.
This information was found in his first chapter titled, Grounds and Causes of the Progress and Superiority of Greek Art Beyond Other
Nations. For example, Winckelmann writes, “Art was indeed employed very early, to preserve the remembrance of individuals; and such a mode of commemoration was free to every Greek. It was even allowable to set up the temples with the statues of
one’s children, which we know was done by the mother…” (Winckelmann, 2012, p. 11). He did not view women as artists but objectified women only as subjects and patrons of art of his time.
Some current art historians have had a considerable impact on art history. Most of the contemporary art historians
cited in this literature review are feminist art historians. What this means is the historian looks at the past using the ideologies of feminism from women’s perspective.
the first feminist art historians, Linda Nochlin, wrote an essay in 1971, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” This essay is her response to the underrepresentation of women artists in art history. The article was helpful in bringing
recognition to the societal expectations that undermined women’s artistic opportunities. In this essay, Nochlin encouraged women to question the social structure that produced this history, rather than trying to reinvent it.
Starting mainly in the 1970’s by the feminist art movement and through the creative and imaginative utilization of various types of art media, women artists began to challenge and resist the artistic standards set for them. Today, generations of women
artists continue to struggle with socially constructed issues and the art canon. Her essay, albeit written over 40 years ago, is still very relevant to the subject of underrepresented women in art history. Nochlin explores why "greatness" in artistic accomplishment
are reserved for male geniuses. Nochlin states “general social expectations against women seriously pursuing art, restrictions on educating women at art academies, and the entire romantic, elitist, individual-glorifying, and monograph-producing substructure
upon which the profession of art history is based have systematically precluded the emergence of great women artists” (Nochlin, 1971). Nochlin might answer the question of why there are no great women artists directly:
The total situation of art making, both in terms of the development of the art maker and in nature and quality of the work of art itself, occur in a social situation, are integral elements of this social structure, and are mediated and determined by specific
a definable social institutions, be they art academies, systems of patronage, mythologies of the divine creator, artist as he-man or social outcast” (pg. 31).
in this essay the primary quandary in conscious discrimination against female artists is based on their gender and the false impression of what art is (Nochlin, 1988). Her essay concludes there have been no great women artists because of the male-dominated
society. She clearly explains in her essay that women’s artistic abilities are not determined by their achievements, but by the influences of society and the accepted notion that great artists are primarily male.
Other feminist art historians ask similar questions as Nochlin’s, like Griselda Pollock. Pollock asks, whose stories are they any way, how can we look at art history differently? She has written over twenty books, and hundreds of articles addressing
the issues that are linked to the underrepresentation of women in art history. Pollock states, “I have spent thirty years or more thinking about feminist questions and art” (Pollock, 2003, p. xxxii). She states the pejorative implications concerning
the underrepresentation of women in art history:
We started from the premise that women had always been involved in the production of art but that the historians Western culture were
reluctant to admit it. Research revealed that it was in fact, only in the 20th century, with the establishment of art history as a widely-taught, institutionalized academic discipline that women artists were systematically obliterated from record.
However, the truly critical implications of feminism for art history as a whole are stifled and not allowed to change what learners studied in art history in general, or how it is studied and taught (pg. 40).
Pollock (2003) also stated in the same article on the way traditional art history courses are taught, “Art history belies historical scholarship in another way. It often has nothing to do with history at all for it amounts only to art appreciation…[the
literature] teaches the student how to consume the great fruits of the human spirit...translated by the words of the critique” (pg 41).
Art is shaped by the
society that produces it, but its particular features are not created by economic structures or organizations. In application to women the poverty of the economic reductionist becomes obvious because women’s position in the
work place is shown to be a complement to, an extension of, or even a product of the complex forms of exploitation women experience in the home, in sexual relationships, in child care duties, or on the street as a result of sexual domination
It may lead us to believe that there are such unitary ideological categories as women’s art, women’s culture, or women’s consciousness. To
treat work by women simply as exemplars of some tautology which teaches us nothing about what being doing or thinking as a woman at different historical moments and in different social conditions
might be (pg. 43).
Pollock (2003) asserts through the social system and ideologies of the male-domination over women “Women have not been omitted through forgetfulness or mere
prejudice” but through the “mutually inflicting regimes of power in the world, namely those of class and those of race” (p. 1). The question of whose critique decides what counts as a value to art’s production in skill, image, member,
discipline, or narrative is answered by Pollock, “this would be the straightjacket in which our studies of women artists and men’s art whose superiority was unquestioned in its disguise as art and the artist” (p. 2). Vision and Difference:
Feminism, Femininity and Histories of Art, strongly point out the essential idea women artists are not only omitted from art history, but from academics, as well.
In addition, the
direct quotes in this study from her book Differencing the Canon; she addresses the sexist views of a Western patriarchal society that has consistently marginalized women artists in art history. Does the instructor need to be a feminist to teach art
history from an approach that is less dominated by male-artists? No, because the demographics of the higher education classroom are diverse and instruction must reflect those changes. A feminist pedagogy art history classroom means the facilitators provides
instruction to ALL students in an environment that is a non-sexist. A feminist pedagogy classroom does not give the power of learning and teaching to one individual, but the instructor must encourage shared power, classroom relationships, participation and
community. The desired course goals and outcome of a feminist pedagogy classroom is when the learner understands the course materials and the key concepts using their individual assumptions, questions, culture, and identity. With that being said, there is
no reason an instructor needs to label themselves as a “feminist” to teach a classroom that uses feminist pedagogy practices.
Pollock asks (1999), “Can a feminist
be a historian?” To be a feminist historian would imply, “feminist studies are no longer art history. They are politics, sociology, ideology, methodology, or women’s studies, or worst theory” (p. 11-12).
Norma Broude and Mary Garrard are Feminist art historians. They have co-edited at least four books and recently co-curated, Claiming Space: Some American Feminist Originators for the AU Art Museum in 2008. Broude specializes in nineteenth-century
French and Italian paintings. Garrard specializes in Italian Renaissance-Baroque paintings. Although they write about all the major eras in Western art in the literature reviewed.
traditional, didactic, single lens way of teaching art history no longer meets the needs of today’s diverse classroom. This transition in education started in the 1960’s. Broude and Garrard have merged the traditional historical survey with Feminist
ideology to explore, specifically, the impact of the Feminist art movement beginning in the 1970s. In the introduction Broude and Garrand (1992) state, “To re-experience art from a Feminist perspective will also mean in many cases to divorce it from
the ivory tower content of pure, aesthetic, and “universal” values, and to see it, not as a passive reflector of social history but as a tool that can be and has been used in every historical periods as a powerful social force” (p. 3). They
continue, “There is no reason, then, in our view to preserve the theoretical fiction of a ‘traditional art history,’ monolithic and intact, when in fact, the inherited categories have always yielded and will continue to do so, as art changes
and evolves” (pg. 7).
Instruction using the tradition art history content in its delivery will only reveal a small portion of art history. The feminist pedagogy curriculum model
within this study will explain the social history of the artists and include more than just the patriarchal content. In Broude and Garrard’s book Feminism and History: Questioning the Litany (1982), the introduction states, “The history
of art, like other disciplines, has matured over the centuries by expanding its boundaries to include new ways of looking at its subject” (p. 1). When using a feminist pedagogy approach to art history the content, material, text, conversations, and activities
improve the learner's understanding by providing a more effective delivery of instruction. See feminist pedagogy strategies later in this chapter.
Whitney Chadwick is also a feminist
art historian. She is a historian of twentieth-century European and American art, and an author of feminism and gender studies. Throughout art history, socially constructed barriers and gender roles have kept many women from producing art. These barriers are
built by a culture that defines women and their artwork in biological terms. The many different barriers women have struggled to overcome are discussed later in this literature review chapter. Chadwick (2007) comments on the underrepresentation of women artists
and their contributions in art history and said, “The number of women artists, well known in their days, but whose work apparently exists is a tantalizing indication of the vagaries of artistic attribution” (p. 17). Chadwick believes that the discussion
of, “Any study of women artists must examine how art is written and assumptions that underlie its hierarchies, especially if the numerous cases of attributions to male artists of works by women are to be reviewed” (p. 17). The following brief history
of women’s roles in art history is not a study of how art is written, but more an explanation of why.
Women and their Role in Art history
This section of the literature review examines the numerous struggles and barriers women artists experienced from ancient times to contemporary.
An overview is important to study because there is a need to understand and genuinely discern why there is such an imbalance throughout the history of women artists. Without this analysis, I would be simply making the assumption that they are underrepresented
purely based on their gender.
Where did the underrepresentation of women in art history begin?
Athens was named after the Greek Goddess of wisdom, Athena. How ironic that the philosophers
from ancient Greece viewed females in all ways inferior to males were from the city named after a female deity of wisdom. Bristow (1991) mocks of Athens, “lies the source of the Western world’s formalized conviction the women are inferior to men”
(p. 3). Yet, the city of Athena was filled with great minds, philosophers, and teachers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. It may have been Socrates that immortalized the Athenian’s disdain toward women. According to Bristow, Socrates often referred
to women as the ‘weaker sex’ and argued “being born women is a divine punishment since women are halfway between man and an animal”(p. 4).
On the contrary, to
Socrates’ teachings and Aristotle’s philosophy of derogatory views of women were not reflected in the art of ancient Greece’s tombs. In these tombs, husband and wife are depicted hugging each other or holding hands. In the family scenes,
the wives are engaging in the same activities as the husbands and general respect for women is revealed. Egyptian women had equal rights to men of the same social class. It seemed the farther west one traveled from ancient Greece the more women enjoyed their
freedom than the Greek women (Bristow, 1991).
According to the Guerrilla Girls (1998), in the Greek and Roman times women icons, goddesses and images were highly revered and praised
although “women of all classes were considered inferior…only men could be citizens; only citizens could vote, own estates, property or livestock” (p. 6). When women married, they might be transferred into the guardianship of their husbands
or they might remain under the authority of their male family members. Roman women of the upper classes were often well educated. It was thought desirable that they should be knowledgeable about literature, music, etc. “They socialized freely in a mixed
environment, unlike the Greek women, who were expected to keep to the home and not mix with male guests” (Pomeroy, 1995). Roman women went to the public baths (there would have usually been separate sessions for men and women, or in bigger baths there
might be entirely separate baths). They could also attend the theatre, chariot races and see the gladiators.
Roman women seem to have been able to participate more freely in public life
than Greek women. Except for the women, Chadwick (Chadwick, 2007, p. 32) said Pliny the Elder mentioned in his The Historia Naturalis encyclopedia, Timarete, Artitarete, Olympia from the Greece and Iaia of Kyziko and two other women identified as
painters. Although, there is some evidence that women took part in the creation of the fine arts and worship women and Goddesses from the Greek and Roman times (Pomeroy, 1995). “As hard as it is to find art by women from ancient times, it’s
even harder to find historians who appreciate women artists” (Guerrilla Girls, 1998, p. 12). As accurate as the Guerilla Girls are with their statistics and the position of women in art history, their delightful approach and tone can be construed
as sarcastic. Contrary to the Guerrilla Girls quote, I did not find it difficult locating historians that discussed the presence or the lack of presence of women artists from ancient times.
Medieval and Gothic Art
The Medieval and Gothic time periods of art history were from the fall of the Roman Empire in 300 AD to the beginning of the Renaissance in 1400
AD. In the Middle Ages, art continued to address Biblical subjects, Christian dogma, and classical mythology. Depictions of religious subjects and stories and their faith consequently showed up in art. According to Broude and Garrand (1982), “This tendency
can be more readily seen in the works covering the old testament stories than in those of the Christian legend, which remained under stricter doctrinal control” (pgs. 86-87). Pliny the Elder mentioned several women artists in his encyclopedia written
in AD77-79. The artists are Timarete, Artitarete, and Olympia from the Greek painters and Iaia of Kyziko and two other women.
Women during the Medieval and Gothic times were dominated by men. The women had very few options in relation to their lives.
If they did not marry, they entered a religious institution as a nun in a convent. “Debate continues among historians about whether women in the later Middle-Ages founded and entered communities because of religious or because of family lineage and marriage
strategies” (Chadwick, 2007, p. 53). “Both Monks and Nuns were the main artists during the Middle Ages. The women who became nuns were responsible for many illuminated manuscripts” (Chadwick, 2007, p. 46). Women artists during this time were
difficult to find in the literature review.
What was considered the difference between art and craft in the Middle Ages and Gothic art, was determined by the materials, technical training
and education. The women during this time produce crafts. Broude and Garrard (1982) point out, “In some trades women had their own guilds (“corporations”), and in the thirteenth-century Paris, they worked in the following categories: as embroiderers,
seamstresses, sinners, wool combers, weavers, headdress makers, hatters, dairy women, retail food merchants and female doctors” (p. 95). Although, there is no evidence showing that women had access to education or technical training in the Middle Ages.
There were only a handful of nuns recognized for their illumination (Chadwick, 2002).
An illuminated manuscript
is the text decoration or illustration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniatures. The Middle Ages women who were illuminators would design the illumination using wax tablets as a sketch pad. The design was often first traced on to the vellum”
Embroidery and tapestry art such as the Bayeux Tapestry (now held in a museum in Battle, England) was considered an accepted art form of Middle Ages women artists. The names of the women who produced and created
the Bayeux Tapestry are unknown but are believed to have worked in English convents or nunneries (Chadwick, 2007).
In the Medieval times, cathedrals were museums of art. The art was
a teaching tool for the patrons and told lessons of faith, sacrifice, and the traditions of the church. “The cathedral was the palace of the poor, and its entire space outside the sanctuary was the palace of the poor, and its entire space outside the
sanctuary was open to their daily visits and short-term stays, without disturbance” (Goodyear, 2012, p. 162).
During the Gothic period, cathedrals were almost as much civic
buildings as they were churches. They were used for town meetings, public festivals, and theatrical exhibitions. Cathedrals were always open, like the Catholic churches of today. Then, the poor man was the equal of the rich. According to William Goodyear (2012),
“The beggar and his lord met on terms of equality in the liberty of using the building and in the theory of its religious teachings. There were no pews for favored owners” (p. 166). During this time, there are records of donations by women of their
jewels, and by poor people of various modest offerings and small sums of money. During the Medieval and Gothic period, the only evidence of art produced by women was of deep religious subject. Otherwise, their work was considered craft because of the materials
“During the Renaissance, a movement that took place from roughly 1300 to 1500 and means “rebirth,”
the term “Renaissance Man” was coined. “Renaissance Man” is still used to today to describe a person who is creative, artistic, musical, and worldly and can seemingly able and willing “to do it all.” However, it is important
to note here that the term is clearly “Renaissance Man” not “Renaissance Woman,” as during and before the Renaissance, it was men who were considered the great artists and creative geniuses (Drahman, 2008).
Later in Renaissance times a few women artists became known, like Sofonisba Anguissola, Caterina van Hemessen, Properzia De’Rossi, and Lavina Fontana. For instance, Sofonisba Anguissola, her works are realistic and often complimentary of family life
and showed children playing and self-portraits.
The women in the Renaissance period attend to housework, and sometimes even joined their husbands to work the fields. Most women were
prevented from gaining the knowledge needed to become an artist. Because of their society role, it was difficult for women artist to become recognized during the Renaissance era (Slatkin, 2001). Through their fathers or family’s connections, these women
received training and publicity, and were able to establish a favorable reputation for themselves. For example, Sofonisba's father, was a nobleman, and encouraged all of his children to partake in art or music, and he especially supported his eldest daughter,
Sofonisba (Slatkin, 2001).
Baroque and Rococo
Baroque and Rococo era was from 1600 to 1760 in Northern Europe. Baroque and Rococo artists captured the energetic and sensual emotion, in European paintings, sculpture, architecture, and decorative arts.
A few of known women artists from this era are Artemisia Gentileschi and Elisabetta Sirini. Historian, Whitney Chadwick devotes a dozen pages to the importance, significance of the artists and their work. Chadwick revealed, “Like many women artists of
the time, Gentileschi and Sarini were the daughter’s of painters…Gentitileschi is the first woman artist in the history of Western art whose historical significance is unquestionable” (Chadwick, 2007, p. 100). Sarini, on the other hand,
was frequently dismissed as simply a following of Reni of Bologna. Her father had catalogued 150 of her paintings, but apparently this figure is too low for some historians (Chadwick, 2007).
A little later in Europe, between the 1600 to 1700, there was a few more women artists recognized. There is Judith Leyster, Rachel Ruysch, Anna Maria Van Schurman and Clara Peters, all Flemish and Dutch painters. Their patrons were wealthy
middle class and their works appealed to them. The Dutch middle class were these artist’s only patrons. Their patrons did not include the Catholic neighboring countries affirms Slatkin (2001), “Holland was a Protestant country, the church was not
an active arts patron” (p. 97).
A great contributor to the Rococo period is Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun. Vigee-Lebrun specialized in portraiture between the periods of Rococo and
Neo-classical art. According to Whitney Chadwick (2007), “[She] acquired almost all of her artistic training independently. Largely self-taught, her early success was a result of ambition, determination, and hard work…Like other women of
her day; she was barred from the study of the live nude model” (p. 164). For women artist, the absence of proper training and education in studio art made it nearly impossible for women to enter the art world as a serious, accomplished and respected
Rococo and Neoclassical
The Rococo and Neoclassical era in Europe expanded from 1700 to 1800. “Neo-classical painters built neoclassicism on this possibility to restore perfection. Among the most prominent women artist associated
to the neoclassical movement was Swiss School, Angelica Kauffman. During this period, Venitian, Rosalba Carriera achieved immense popularity and made pastel portraits of notabilities from all over Europe” (Slatkin, 2001, p. 112). Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun,
Angelica Kauffman and Rosalba Carriera are three important women painters of the eighteenth.
These women according to Chadwick (2007), “They were able to negotiate between
the taste of their aristocrat clients and the influence of Enlightenment ideas about women’s ‘natural’ place in social bourgeois order, and this fact deserves much closer attention than it has received” (p. 139). During this time, women
and femininity were confined to the realm of the private and domestic areas. Because proper training was not yet an option during this time, the three painters were mostly known for their portrait paintings. Kauffman’s father was a painter, so she received
her early training from her father (Slatkin, 2001). Vigee-Leburn’s produced about 800 paintings in her lifetime. Like Kauffman. Vigee-Leburn’s father, a painter, gave her instructions and encouraged her talents (Slatkin, 2001).
There are two other women artist’s mentioned Slatkin’s book, Women Artist in History, (2001) they are Mary Moser and Anne Valley-Coster. Chadwick in Women Art and Society (2007) mentions Labille-Guiard, Marie Loir, Catherine Reed,
Francoise Duparc, Mary Delany, Anne Seymor, Marguerite Gerard, Laurent Cars, and Lady Calvery All of these women were professional and extremely talented artists working in many mediums.
Then we are taken to the period of realism and Victoria England, during and after the French Revolution approximately 1800 to 1870. Women did make some gains in improving her rights according to Whitney Chadwick (2007):
Women won legal protection for their property and inheritance rights. A leading champion of equality of education was Marquis de Condorcet. Inspired by the American Declaration of Independence, Condorcet demanded increased educational
and social opportunities for women as well as civil equality…Unfortunately, the instability of the times prevented the implementations of these plans (pg 128).
The Napoleonic code of 1804 overturned any gains women made in France until the late 1800’s. Until then, women’s lack of legal and civil rights continued to be imposed upon them. Chadwick (2007) explains:
As in the Renaissance, a women’s education tended to reinforce her predetermined life role as a wife and mother, rather than providing practical skills that might lead to financial self-sufficiency. Instruction in drawing and watercolor painting
was part of this bourgeois curriculum because “art” was considered an appropriate hobby for women, if forbidden as a professional career (pg. 128-129).
during this period that are generally unknown or unmentioned in the traditional art history books are: Mme. Angelique Mongez, Elizabeth Thompson, Anna Lea Merritt, Henretta Ward, Maranne North (of South Africa), Emily Mary Osborn, Edith Hayller, Alice Walker,
Anna Blundeen, Rebecca Solomon, Evelyn Pickering de Morgan and Margaretta Burr. One of the most well-known realism artists is Rosa Bonheur (England). Her paintings are admired for her depictions of animals (Chadwick, 2007).
A little background about the American women artist during 1830-1900, before we go back to France. According to Slatkin (2001), “Women were
largely absent from the cultural arena as both patrons and artists. Women were not involved in any major art institutions, such as galleries, academies, or art unions, which were dominated by men. However, there were a few exceptions” (p. 137). The
exceptions were of Sarah Worthington King Peter, who opened a school of design in Philadelphia in 1848, Lilli Martin Spencer: a daughter of an artist, and Harriet Hosmer; a sculptor that studied anatomy at Saint Louis Medical College. She moved to Italy as
did many other sculptors according to Slatkins (2001), “In the 1850’s and 1860’s, Louisa Landers, Emma Stebbins, Anne Whitney, and Edmonia Lewis (see figure 18) established neighboring sculpture studios in Italy” (p. 142).
A small group of French women artists forever altered the course of art history. In 1874, the group of artists known as the Impressionists organized the first of eight private exhibitions to show their modern work that was
open to the public. They started an art revolution in the late 1800s. Their thick and colorful painted canvases bewildered art critics, challenged traditional ideas, and ignited talk of scandal. Now, Impressionist and Impressionism are highly admired
in the 21st century (Slatkin, 2001).
During this period in art history things rapidly changed for women in France. Slatkin (2001) explains, “Opportunities for women to study art in Paris expanded under the Third Republic. By 1879,
there were twenty schools in Paris solely designed to train women for positions in the art industries” (p. 156). Berthe Morisot (France) and Mary Cassatt (American born) were active members of the small Impressionist group in Paris. They are both known
as the better artists of their generation (Slatkin, 2001). Morisot and Cassatt are well-known women artist’s of the Impressionist’s, it is not difficult to find literature or their art in a contemporary art history book.
Their work had influenced many Impressionist artists, but there were other professional women Impressionist artists with different and diverse biographies. Several other artists contributed to the Impressionist movement. For example, Eva Gonzalez, Marie Bracquemond,
Candace Wheeler, Maria Longworth, Kate Faulkner, Susan MacDowell, Jenny Brownscombe, Louisa May Alcott and Frances Benjamin (Chadwick, 2007).
There is a general agreement that opportunities changed, were gained and women artists were better represented in the art world after impressionism. After Impressionism, the "anything
goes" arena for artists had collectively influenced other modern art movements to follow. For example, Post Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting, Pop Art, etc., within these movements came the increase of representation and the recognition
of women artist, art history (Chadwick, 2007).
Griseld Pollock (2003) declares, "We cannot accept that women somehow are just less creative than men, less intelligent, less innovative,
less thoughtful, or less important as articulators of modern human experience. It is unhistorical. It would also be completely unmodernist to do so" (p. 41).
Contemporary art is art produced at the present point in time, which is roughly the 1970s until now. For example, works by Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Suzanne Lacy and Faith Ringgold (Slatkin, 2010). Within the contemporary art
movement, the feminist movement played a significant role in changing the paradigm and discussions of gender and sexuality in the new representation of art. Before feminism, most women artists were denied exhibitions or representation based solely on their
gender. The feminist art movement changed established institutions' policies and helped to promote women artists' visibility. With the increased equality of women in all phases of the post war culture, women artists demonstrated their capability to produce
quality, high art.
The feminist art movement started in the 1960’s during anti-war demonstrations, civil rights and gay rights movements. “Feminist artists sought to
change the world around them through their art, focusing on intervening in the established art world, the art historical canon, as well as everyday social interactions” (DiTolla, 2010). A quote from artist Suzanne Lacy, she reflects, “the goal
of feminist art was to influence cultural attitudes and transform stereotypes" (DiTolla, 2010). Tracy DiTolla explains in her website article:
Feminist artists often embraced alternative
media, incorporating fabric, fiber, performance, and video as these materials did not have the same historically male- dominated precedent that painting and sculpture carried.
By using non-traditional media, they sought to expand the definition of fine arts to include a wider variety of media and artistic perspectives (DiTolla, 2010).
Many women contemporary artists have emerged in since the 1960’s, but women still have a long way to go to gain the recognition they deserve and to bring an awareness of the current canon and art world hegemony that restricts the growth of women entering
the field of art making.
According to a graph and a statement about the representation of women artist, Heartney, Posner, Princenthal, & Scott in their book After the Revolution:
Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art, (2007) women artists continually get underrepresented. They explain, “In 1970’s, women accounted for only 1.6 percent of solo gallery exhibitions…in 1990’s the number increased to 23.9 percent...While
the number of women artists’ exhibitions has doubled since the early seventies, it has really only kept pace with an expanded market: women still have roughly one opportunity for every four of the opportunities open to men” (pg. 22).
In discovering the literature focusing on the underrepresentation of women in history, I found that the underrepresentation of women artists still exists. The graph shows since 1970s
there the marginalization of women artists continues. From this point, this study continued a review of literature to determine what the best educational principles, philosophy and theory to be utilized.
FEMINIST PEDAGOGY PARADIGM
After a review of the literature of women in art history, I researched feminist pedagogy. This portion of the literature review will explain
the design, concepts, theory, philosophy, and the concerns of the feminist pedagogy teaching model.
Feminist Pedagogy Theory
The theory of feminist pedagogy is tied to the concept of women’s oppression, marginalization and sexism. It challenges the current emphasis on the personal prejudices that are perceived and dominate the masculine rationality (Scering, 1997). Shrewsbury
(1993) defines the theory as a “teaching/learning process that guides our choices of classroom practices by providing criteria to evaluate specific educational strategies in terms of the desired goals and outcomes” (p. 8). “It’s not
only about developing ideas; it fundamentally is concerned with social change” (Manicom, 1992, p. 368). What this means to the study is, the analysis (perhaps through feminist eyes) of woman artist’s roles need to be considered in order to teach
inclusion and not exclusion in art history.
Feminist Pedagogy Defined
“Feminist Pedagogy concerns itself with transformation both of relations among people in classrooms and of relations
of power in the world” (Manicom, 1992, p. 367). Feminist pedagogy democratizes the classroom by drawing upon the learner’s subjective knowledge and experiences where it emphasizes the understanding of their lives and the lives of others. MacDonald
and Sanchez have a great description of a feminist pedagogy, and the principles that guide the classroom:
Decentering the authority of the professor, developing
and foregrounding subjugated knowledge, legitimizing personal identity and experiences as the foundation of authentic and liberatory knowledge (especially marginalized identities and experiences), discussion-based classes, emphasis on student voice-have
enormous power to democratize knowledge production in the classroom…the feminist classroom can construct and deconstruct epistemic authority
(MacDonald & Sanchez-Casal, 2002, p. 5).
Sandell (1991) defines feminist pedagogy the “ultimate transformation of the academy." That transformation
occurs when teachers and students create "classroom interactions that foster empowerment, community, and leadership." (p. 181). She sees feminist pedagogy as an "alternative instructional model ‘towards’ shaping and informing the processes of teaching
and learning" (p. 180).
Feminist pedagogy is designed to abandon traditional pedagogical notions of societal hierarchies and domination in order to bring change.
It asks educators to help learners think critically, by providing students with materials and discussion that get students to question and analyze (Mayberry & Rose, 1999). Students are partners in the process of knowledge construction, “students
actually shift from being passive receivers of knowledge to becoming engaged in a dynamic process of learning” (p. 23). This may mean learners realizing the political, social and economic stakes in the idea of a more inclusive Western art history. In
addition to the power structure of the classroom, Manicom (1992) asserts, “Students’ own experiences, emotions, and knowledge form a basis for discussion, analysis, and assignments; Where small-group tends to replace lectures, both to acknowledge
learners as teachers and to reduce the status of “teacher as expert”(pg. 367). Manicom adds, “Evaluation includes self-evaluation, ongoing process evaluation, and collective criteria for evaluation; where shared forms of leadership and decision-making
are attempted; and where empowerment and action are regarded as central” (p. 367).
Feminist Pedagogy Philosophy
The philosophy of feminist pedagogy is to empower students by a democratic process. Shrewsbury (1993) maintains,
feminist pedagogy is, “a democratic process in which at least some power is shared” (pg. 9). “By focusing on empowerment feminist pedagogy embodies a concept of power energy, capacity, and potential rather than domination” (p. 10).
The vision of the educator, “Regardless of their discipline, is to implement a classroom pedagogy that challenges the dominate masculinist assumptions about knowledge and education, and ultimately challenges the oppressive power relations embedded in
the wider society” (Mayberry & Rose, 1999, p. 3).
Feminist pedagogy philosophy requires an active, not passive relationship with the world,
“It requires confidence. And it demands looking beyond how to make do and into how to make ‘making do different’ …how to change the structures that control our lives” (Manicom, 1992, p. 368). This philosophy can provoke the learner
to think about their lives and the lives of others in society. “One goal of the liberatory classroom is that members learn to respect each other’s differences rather than fear them” (Shrewsbury, 1993, p. 8).
Feminist Pedagogical Classrooms Implemented
“The classroom is one of the most dynamic
work settings precisely because we are given such a short amount of time to do so much” (hooks, 2003, p. 14). Manicom (1992) talks about how collaboration requires the learner to think of others in the class as a group, “sharing and collaboration
are basic principles underlying classroom processes…Experiences and feelings are shared, often in small groups discussion. Sharing and attentive listening foster explicit activities and directives. Caring is seen as important and mutual support is encouraged”
In a feminist classroom, it is important that the learners know what to expect. Feminist pedagogy suggests the instructor discuss their role and
position within a hierarchical and patriarchal institutional structure. Mayberry and Rose (1999) encourage their students to, “examine their own positions within the structures… and instructors must always be conscious of their own powers in the
classroom and the way in which this affects their interaction with students…ask the learner to discuss in class and in journals what they accept and reject, as well as their reasons why” (p. 41).
What Mayberry and Rose mean by the word ‘structure’ is the relationship between the student and the instructor. Democratic educators have to work to find ways to teach in a manner that does not reinforce existing structures of domination”
The Challenges of Feminist Pedagogy
Linking feminist theory and instruction means according to Manicom (1992),
“[F]orging alliances with men and women across differences of class and race. And forging such alliances to engage in action for social change means making connections to the world beyond the classroom, not just in theory but also in practice”
(p. 368). “Furthermore, their skepticism about the relevance of feminism may be regarded contemptuous by fellow students” (hooks, 1994, p. 113).
According to Manicom (1992), there is a possibility the approach of the concept of social transformation in the classroom could be a problem because feminist educators can be grouped into two major groups, “egalitarians (those advocating equal opportunities
and the feminists (those advocating anti sexist or girl-centered education). Whereas the former fail to address the relationship between patriarchy, power and women’s subordination, the later place it at the center of their thinking” (p. 369).
Another concern of Manicom (1992) is the power of the dominant hegemonic viewpoint and how it can ‘silence’ the learner. She stresses, “When one’s
experience and one’s telling does not “fit” for the hearers, it may be dismissed or passed over. This not-being-heard is constructed in part through practices that privilege certain voices.” This can happen by privileging a particular
class, race, gender, or political view. She continues, “Several studies illustrate how oppressive power relations operate in feminist (as in other) classrooms” (pg.377).
Manicom explains it is a good idea that the feminist educator, as painful as it may be, critically reflect on their practice because he or she maybe privileging voices over others. She gives the example of the instructor awarding more attention and privileging
voices of a feminist over a non-feminist or “valuing the views of a lesbian feminist in the class over those of non-lesbians” (pg. 377). If people feel that they are at a disadvantage, “Suddenly, the feminist classroom is no longer a safe
haven” (hooks, 1994, p. 113).
The Successes of Feminist Pedagogy
Because educators and students are sharing authority and experiences in the classroom, “feminism must
be anti-racist and anti-classist in its pedagogy, in its analysis, in its political project” (Manicom, 1992, p. 382). “Authoritarian practices, promoted and encouraged by many institutions, undermines democratic education in the classroom. By undermining
education as the practice of freedom, authoritarianism in the classroom dehumanizes and thus shuts down the “magic” that is always present when individuals are active learners” (hooks, 2003, p. 42). “To be successful, the movement for
developing a more democratic [art history] education for all and for building a more diverse [art history] community will require a similar feminist vision and a more widespread awareness and implementation of feminist pedagogy” (Mayberry & Rose,
1999, p. 3).
Manicom points out that the main goal of feminist pedagogy is to dissolve hierarchal relationships between the learner and the instructor. Successes
of feminist pedagogy allow the power relationships in the classroom to be equally dispersed between the instructor and the learners. To redistribute power creates the required pedagogical environment that promotes the basic principles of a feminist pedagogical
classroom. The classroom is conducive to community, respectfulness of others, collaborative learning, and student’s feel comfortable challenging ideas and views. This is feminist theory in practice.
of Literature Review
The art historian's research in this literature review verifies and confirms that women artists have been missing or omitted
from the art history text books. Within this literature review, I found that women artists did indeed exist as far back as Greco-Roman times. Despite this fact, they continue to be unrecognized in general art history courses. The feminist art historians confirm
women artists continue to struggle to enter the art world today. Though women artists have access to education, art schools, and have the same opportunities available to them as male artists, there remains gender discrimination in the art world and the contemporary
Western art history classrooms. The graph by Heartney et al. clearly demonstrates a considerable discrepancy of women solo shows compared to men.
women’s liberation movement in the 1970s has had a tremendous impact on opening doors and opportunities to women artists. Manicom believes that the women’s movement, “firmly situates feminist pedagogy” (p. 365). Today, statistics show
that there has not been a significant improvement of the representation of women artists. These ideologies of the feminist art movement that began in the 1970s speak to societal issues that faced women artists in history, as well.
This investigation revealed that developing a historical account of women artists and the societal views that influenced Western culture was a complex process. Several specific themes
were identified all of which were interconnected in various ways. The study will discuss the connections in the “Findings” section of Chapter IV. They represented distinct and recurring experiences that Western women artists experienced and were
particularly relevant to their artistic growth. The results also demonstrate that these experiences were ones over which women had no control, such as their socio-economic status, the amount of support they received for their artistic aspirations or gender
By implementing feminist pedagogy methods in an art history curricula, the hierarchal student and instructor relationship is dissolved.
The relationship is replaced with a non-threatening instruction that allows all voices to be heard. According to the literature reviewed, the feminist pedagogy classroom has enormous power to democratize knowledge production. Feminist pedagogy principles,
philosophy, and theory provide the learner with a non-traditional art history curricula, where underrepresented women artists are introduced and recognized.
Finally, the evidence in this investigation suggests that time, social restraints, expectations, education and family responsibilities are important and valued aspect of the artistic lives of these women. This literature review also served to discover uncommonly
or unknown artists that are not represented in art history texts. Lastly, it aligned itself with growing research that is dedicated to exploring the lived experiences of women artists.