Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? Feminism and Art History.


“If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?”
—  Mary Wollstonecaft (1759-1797) 

216 years later and it’s still relevant. Image

The second word in the title of this work is closely related to the development of feminist and feminine research. That the feminist aspect of art-history has not been highlighted before does not imply that it was previously equal between the sexes but rather that the subject was overlooked. There was no previous research in men and women’s characteristics’ such as characters and social roles in society. When looking upon and unveiling the hidden history of women there are a few explanations to why the difference in the sexes exists. On one hand the is the obvious matter of the differences biologically between men and women and another one being the one of society’s role in the development of women’s position in the world. Both genders has been placed in patterns of roles; women often simplified by her emotional abilities, focused on care and other peaceful and gentle roles whilst men’s territory is technology and war. In this we can see that the concept of femininity and masculinity is an invention of social and cultural measures not necessarily adopted by the biological gender.

Feminism ever since its birth has been considered a hostile area by many. Early feminist writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft wrote as early as 1792 how she saw the difference in rank between men and women as a stereotypical problem that in her opinion needed to be identified, questioned and ultimately to be changed.[1] When applying ‘feminist’ visual analysis it  is not about dismissing the previous methods of analysis instead it is about opening up a new field, to argue the concept or the man as the ‘norm’ and the woman as ‘the other’.

[1] Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792.


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