Linda Nochlin a well-known art history scholar has written many essays on this subject, however, the essay that made the greatest impact on the field of history was “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (NOCHLIN, par. I). From this idea and the profound question put up by Linda Nochlin, it is evident that discrimination against women was more rampant and extended even to art (NOCHLIN, par. 1).
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Additionally, the essay brought up or revived a question that had been asked earlier and only a few people had taken much interest in it. Chadwick in his writing had posed a question, “why had art historians chosen to ignore the work of almost all women artists?” on the other hand, Linda creatively shows that women were equally talent in the field of art like men but the altitude of the society and discrimination by the institutions responsible limited they success (NOCHLIN, par. 2). Linda views that to achieve an accurate historical account male domination should be corrected and the injustices against women are eliminated both in the past and present.
According to Nochlin, the question should not be addressed through assumption but creating an area where there is a feminine style and masculine style to judge female and male artists respectively. Additionally, by doing so the idea of not having great women artist could not have risen as there could have been an area where women artists of the past could have been recorded based on their feminine style, and this could have formed the basis of the argument to determine a great artist rather than basing our arguments on something that is not documented. Furthermore, Nochlin continues to argue that male and female are created differently and each pass through different situations and experiences and this will in turn result to a different kind of art between either gender (NOCHLIN, par. 9).
Art is based on life experiences and situations, and the art that a woman would come up with will relate to her situation and experience, therefore portraying a different kind of greatness than a man based on this argument. Therefore, comparing the art of women and men as one thing is not ethical as both will portray different experiences and situations based on their gender and it’s hard for any of the two to perfect in an area that they have no experience or situation to show of.
Most of the paintings and artwork that have been done by women portray a style that is more delicate and intimate (NOCHLIN, par. 9). Women mainly engage in paintings that depict women, flowers, and children and this is an area that most male artists have not ventured into. However, as much as the idea of having to judge an artist based on their style may seem reasonable it is not always true.
This is because the male is not restricted to painting paintings that are of only masculine style and the same case applies to women. There are examples of paintings that have a feminine aspect in them and were done by a male artist. On the same note, some paintings were done by female artists and portray a masculine style. Therefore, either gender has the capability of producing different kinds of artistic works that are either masculine or feminine.
On the other hand, Nochlin views that the reason why there was no great women artist is due to the perception that a great painting must include nudity in it. Consequently, all the defenders and paintings lovers argued that for any painting to be great the figure must be unclothed (NOCHLIN, par. 31). Furthermore, the models that were used during this era were discriminately against women and any aspiring female artist faced immense challenges. Additionally, the female nude model was not allowed in any public art school, things only changed in the late 1850s but this did not offer any incentives to aspiring female artists. Women who wanted to join art school to study life drawing were not admitted even to the end of the 19th century in certain art schools.
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Furthermore, during the early 19th century women were considered as an object by men and they could use them in any way they pleased. Nochlin views this as discrimination and the reason why there are no many great artists; she argues that by this time it was right for a man to paint a naked woman, but wrong for a woman to paint a naked man and more so a female nude (NOCHLIN, ch 34).
Therefore, this limited the number of the great female artist as nudity was what was perceived as great art. In all the areas that Nochlin touches in the essay the main reason ends up being discrimination, however, the discrimination was based on different areas of the industry. Nochlin gives the example of France which was considered as having the largest number of female artists but none of them was recognized.
As much as France had a large number of female artists, institutional discrimination was rampant and had the view that there is no female artist who is a professional. Therefore, with this mentality, no women ever showcased her artistic work in the exhibition which was deemed as the way to been recognized and successful. Due to this fact, women lacked the motivation and the educational materials and facilities necessary to pursue art as a profession (NOCHLIN, par. 36).
Additionally, these institutional discriminations were the main reason why men were more advantaged in artistic excellence and success while leaving women behind due to the deprivation of incentive in the field of art. On the same note, the deprivation was instrumental in killing the female artist who had talent in art and became the main reason why the question,” Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” keeps on popping up and the answers are never concrete. Women lack the nude model during art lessons which form a base for some of Nochlin’s arguments. As much as the argument seems to answer the underlying questions, there are still areas of discrimination that Nochlin has avoided all through the essay, therefore weakening her arguments.
In the past women faced various discrimination and all could have limited their penetration in different areas. Money problems could have been a great hindrance in the field of art as it required extensive training (NOCHLIN, par. 35). Furthermore, family obligations and altitude towards art were also obstacles to female artists’ success (NOCHLIN, par. 39). Focusing on only one area Nochlin fails to extensively answer the question and her arguments are also subject to critics.
In the 21st century, there are no nude models in schools and female artists are becoming successful, this implies that other than the lack of nude model which Nochlin has greatly centered her arguments on, there are other factors that contributed to the lack of great women artists. Therefore, these factors must be clearly understood if the reasons why there have been no great women artists were to be known. However, Nochlin has given the basis of the argument and also helped to change the mentality that the majority of people had concerning the matter.
Nochlin arguments are based on the 19th century and early 20th century but some of the discriminations that women faced during that time still face them even today in some parts of the world. Therefore, her arguments can apply directly today, because it has been observed that some countries or communities do not educate female children and at time dictate what course to choose to study.
As much as Nochlin laments on the issue, she finds hard to tell women to wake up from the past and reflect on the future and avoid making unjustifiable excuses (NOCHLIN, par. 39). Additionally, the essay and the arguments that Nochlin has brought forth have increased the awareness of the restrictions that women face today in any sector. It was argued that the reason why there were no great women artists was that they lacked the talent or the ability to paint, but Nochlin has made this statement false and given concrete evidence to support her argument.
Additionally, men are no perfect human beings, “the inability of human beings with wombs rather than penises to create anything significant, to relatively open-minded wonderment that women, despite so many years of near-equality and after all, men have had their disadvantages” (NOCHLI, par.7). On the other hand, there has been a significant change in the theorem of female physicists over the past years and we are experiencing more and more of them who are making an impact in the history of science.
NOCHLIN, LINDA. “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”. 2012. Web.