Women are underrepresented in art history. They have been
omitted, hidden, and excluded in the earlier years, but specifically, before 1970 and the women’s movement. In the literature review, I cite Whitney Chadwick (2007) as explaining how Pliny the Elder mentioned several women in his encyclopedia written
and published circa 77-79AD.
If those women were worthy of mention in his encyclopedia, certainly it should not be hard to find information on them. However, their works have been sidelined.
Despite extensive research I could not find information on five of the six women artists. Their works are lost. I began to see a pattern throughout the centuries. Not much has apparently changed from Pliny’s encyclopedia to now.
Women from ancient times to post World War I have abided many social restraints. While I recognize the injustice and the underrepresentation, there isn’t too much we can do about it now. Today, women have equal rights, equal opportunities to education,
and exhibits. Many social barriers have been eliminated for women artists today; however the study demonstrates statistically that there remains a considerable discrepancy in the representation of women in galleries, museums and contemporary text books. The
underrepresentation of women artist has had a cascading effect on woman’s issues throughout the years. Their economic status has traveled with them. Irrational prejudices still exist. Distorted market values have been perpetuated. Women are still
denied equal promotion even though they have the same opportunities as men. What can we do about it?
We can start supporting women artists by buying their art and attending their gallery
or museum openings. Given that at least half the art students are female, art educators could better attend to the needs of young female artists. Also, all students would benefit through the inclusion of more women artists in the curriculum. We ought to create
and implement classroom models that expose some of the unrecognized women artists in art history and reject the patriarchal canon curriculum. Providing a more balanced and just art history course, a course in which men and women in art history are not
subordinated to each other, would go a long way to furthering this objective. That’s why this research is essential. It trains the trainer.
Implications and Recommendations for Further Research
The results of this study imply that the field of art history needs to better meet the needs of all art history students. The following recommendations are derived from the participant’s
stories and are grounded in their experiences. The findings in this investigation offer a variety of suggestions for those in the field of art history, museum educators, and the general public. Some recommendations are linked to feminist teaching approaches
to art history. These include more contemporary art practices, social context and lives of artists.
In addition to this research, I discovered a particular women artist that remains
unknown, but has earned the distinction of a major contributor of the American Abstract Expressionist Movement. Janet Sobel is the first known drip artist the early Twentieth Century and has received no to very limited amount of credit for her contributions.
It is said that Jackson Pollock saw Sobel’s work at the Guggenheim Museum and he admittedly was directly inspired and influenced by her works exhibited at the museum (Biography of Jackson Pollock , 2011).The level of influence she may have had on Pollock’s
prosperous and vital career is certainly worthy of future inquiries.
Some of the participants in this study reported that they did not have any women artists in their formal education
curriculum. This finding suggests that not long ago, women artists were excluded from the art history curriculum. As well as being unaware of many women artists in history, most of the participants did not learn about contemporary artists’ work, lives
or contemporary artistic practices during their art history education. This finding suggests that students might be better served if educators taught them about living artists as well. It is important that art historians bear in mind that art isn’t only
about the past.
Educators ought to consider making it a regular part of their curriculum to invite local artists into the classroom and arrange studio visits so students could hear first-hand
about artists’ struggles and accomplishments. In addition, teachers might contact area museums to develop collaborative programs where artists in residence could engage students with projects in the classroom and in the museum that connect to the institution’s
collections and temporary exhibitions.
If educators are to employ the recommendations related to art history and contemporary art they must be provided with the appropriate curriculum
resources to do so. Therefore, it is important to the field of art history to continue to develop resources in the form of reproductions, slides or digital images, DVDs and books that help instructors present (not lecture) a broader, deeper, and more inclusive
understanding of art and the artists of the past and present.
Finally, we need to accept
that we can’t fix the past. It is not reparations for women artists that we ought to seek. Most of their works are gone and much of history was written without hearing their voice. However, we can acknowledge the errors of the past, educate the
youth, and lend our support to the woman artist of the present.