Women in the art history field

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Women were professionally active in the academic discipline of art history already in the nineteenth century and participated in the important shift early in the century that began involving an "emphatically corporeal visual subject", with Vernon Lee as a notable example.[1] It is argued that in the twentieth century women art historians (and curators), by choosing to study women artists, "dramatically" "increased their visibility".[2] In fact, women art historians are one of two groups (besides authors of high-school texbooks) "who say there have been great women artists" in the first place, according to the authors of a study of the representations of women artists in US textbooks.[3]

Education and employment[edit]

In the United States professional, academic employment for women art historians was, by the early 1970s, not commensurate with the number of female PhDs in art history. Between 1960 and 1969, 30.1% of PhDs were awarded to women but those numbers increased significantly during that period: between 1960 and 1965 it was 27%, but between 1966 and 1967 it had gone up to 43.5%. But in 1970-1971, women art historians in art departments in the US made up 23.1% of instructors, 21.6% of assistant professors, 17.5% of associate professors, and only 11.1% of full professors. Comparison with the numbers for the same years for women in the languages, from a study done by the Modern Language Association, showed that "women in C.A.A. [College Art Association] professions face[d] rather more severe discrimination than women in M.L.A. fields". Similar tendencies were reported for salary and employment in studio teaching ("preliminary statistics...indicate that women artists receive a disproportionately small share of full-time studio jobs") and in museums ("particularly significant was a tendency to hire women with BAs to be secretaries and men with BAs for trainee programs which rapidly advanced them to more challenging positions).[4]

The history of women in the profession also suggests that art education itself has benefited from the increased presence of professional women art historians, since women students sometimes found it necessary to "redo" an education in which only a male point of view had been provided given. Paula Harper, "one of the first art historians to bring a feminist perspective to the study of painting and sculpture",[5] and Moira Roth shared the same experience of a "one-sided training", of feeling left out.[6] Discrimination against "women in college and university art departments and art museums" was, in the early 1970s, the immediate cause for the foundation of the Women's Caucus for Art (see below).[4]

In a statistical study of US employment among art faculties published in 1977, Sandra Packard notes that "in art departments women have been decreasing in number since the 1930's", and that the number of women in art faculties at institutes of higher education "decreas[ed] from 22% in 1963 to a low of 19.5% in 1974", and cites statistics suggesting that "although women are concentrated at the lower ranks in art faculties, they have more Ph.D. degrees than their male colleagues."[7]


The Women's Caucus for Art (WCA), a caucus for woman art historians, artists, and curators was founded at the 1972 meeting of the College Art Association (CAA), but re-established itself as an independent organization in 1974 after the CAA told them they could not use the CAA name anymore. According to Judith Brodsky, the CAA was, at the time, very much a male-dominated organization; she notes, though, in a 1977 article that the Caucus is given space and time at the annual CAA conference and in the CAA's journal, Art Journal.[8] A Lifetime Achievement Award was installed in 1979. The organization's objectives include "providing women with leadership opportunities and professional development" and "expanding networking and exhibition opportunities for women", and to that purpose publishes a newsletter, organizes sessions at conferences, and runs databases for "art and activism". In 2012 the WCA celebrated its 40th anniversary, and published a pamphlet for the annual awards ceremony that also includes a number of historical essays and reflections from the past presidents.[9]

Women art historians and feminist art theory[edit]

Feminist scholars have argued that the role of women art historians is connected to the study of women (as artists and as subjects) by art historians.[10] In 1974, Lise Vogel noted that there were few feminist art historians, and that women art historians in general seemed unwilling to ask "the more radical critiques" a feminist scholar should engage in.[11] In a 1998 essay, Corine Schleif argued that women and feminist scholars need to challenge the "Great Master" canon, and that they need to focus less on "style as evidence of authorship", seen as a traditionally masculine way of viewing the history of art, but rather on style as "one of many sites on the production of meaning". The topic of women scholars in art history is thus intricately connected with what scholars have called feminist art theory;[10] Kerry Freedman, for example, claims that "women art historians often interpret art that is about and by women differently than their male colleagues".[12] However, Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher, in Women artists at the millennium (2006), argue that by the 1980s many "women art history scholars" had begun to think of feminism as irrelevant to the discipline.[13]

Notable women art historians[edit]

Name Nationality Dates Specialization Profession
Alpers, SvetlanaSvetlana Alpers American 1936 Dutch Golden Age Painting Art historian
Anstruther-Thomson, ClementinaClementina Anstruther-Thomson Scottish 1857–1921 Experimental aesthetics during the Victorian era Author, art theorist, art critic
Antonelli, PaolaPaola Antonelli Italian 1963 Modern Art, Design Curator
Mouriki, DoulaDoula Mouriki Greek 1934 - 1991 Byzantinologist, Historian of Art Professor
Arscott, CarolineCaroline Arscott English Victorian art, 19th century art Art historian
Ashton, DoreDore Ashton American 1928 Modern Art, Contemporary Art Writer, professor, art critic
Askew, PamelaPamela Askew American 1925–1997 Domenico Fetti and Caravaggio Professor
Atasoy, NurhanNurhan Atasoy Turkish 1934 Ottoman art and architecture Art historian
Auerbach, ErnaErna Auerbach German 1897–1975 Tudor period in England
Avery, MyrtillaMyrtilla Avery American 1869–1959 Medieval art Professor, a Monuments men, former chair of Department of Art at Wellesley College and director of the Farnsworth Art Museum from 1930–1937.
Baert, BarbaraBarbara Baert Belgian 1967 medieval iconology Art historian
Bal, MiekeMieke Bal Dutch 1946 Modern Art, Contemporary Art Cultural theorist, video artist
Banti, AnnaAnna Banti Italian 1895–1985 Italian Baroque, female artists Writer, art historian, art critic, translator
Banti, LuisaLuisa Banti Italian 1894–1978 Etruscan art Archaeologist, art historian, writer
Barnes, RuthRuth Barnes British 1956 Material culture, South and Southeast Asian Textiles Art historian, curator
Beckett, WendyWendy Beckett (aka 'Sister Wendy') British 1930 Catholic art Art historian, Catholic nun
Berenson, MaryMary Berenson [14][15] American 1864–1945 Italian Renaissance Art historian, lecturer
Dorléac, Laurence BertrandLaurence Bertrand Dorléac French 1957 Modern and contemporary Art historian, professor, curator
Bieber, MargareteMargarete Bieber [16] German 1879–1978 Theatre, sculpture, and clothing of ancient Rome and Greece Art historian, professor
Bing, GertrudGertrud Bing [17] German 1892–1964
Boggs, Jean SutherlandJean Sutherland Boggs [18] Canadian 1922 Nineteenth-century French art, Degas Curator, art historian, and first female director of the National Gallery of Canada
Borea, EvelinaEvelina Borea Italian 1931 Italian art history
Broude, NormaNorma Broude American 1941 Impressionism and feminist art history Art historian, Author and emerita professor at American University
Breeskin, Adelyn DohmeAdelyn Dohme Breeskin American 1896–1986 works by Mary Cassatt curator, museum director, and art historian at Baltimore Museum of Art
Brookner, AnitaAnita Brookner [19] English 1936
Browse, LillianLillian Browse British 1906–2005 Art dealer, art historian
Bruggen, Coosje vanCoosje van Bruggen [20] Dutch, American 1942–2009 Artist, art historian
Bucarelli, PalmaPalma Bucarelli Italian 1910–1998 Director of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (GNAM) from 1942 to 1975.
Bulling, AnnelieseAnneliese Bulling German, American 1900–2004 Sinologist, Chinese Art and Arch. Art lecturer, art historian
Carbonell, Teresa GisbertTeresa Gisbert Carbonell Bolivian 1926 Andean art history Art historian
Caws, Mary AnnMary Ann Caws American 1933 Modern Art, Contemporary art Author, literary critic, art historian
Churcher, BettyBetty Churcher[21] Australian 1931–2015 Art historian, first female director of the National Gallery of Australia
Comini, AlessandraAlessandra Comini American 1934– American women artists, Egon Schiele's portraiture Academic lecturer, writer, a founder of the Women’s Caucus for Art
Constantine, MildredMildred Constantine American 1913–2008 Poster Art, Graphic Design Art historian and curator at Museum of Modern Art in the 1950s and 1960s
Cooke, LynneLynne Cooke Australian Modern art, Contemporary art Curator
Rocio de la Villa Spanish 1959 Spanish feminist art, Contemporary art Curator, university professor, president of Spanish Society of Aesthetics and Theory of the Arts,[22] a co-founders of Asociación de Mujeres en las Artes Visuales (MAV)
d'Harnoncourt, AnneAnne d'Harnoncourt American 1943–2008 Marcel Duchamp Curator and director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Dhanens, ElisabethElisabeth Dhanens Belgian 1915–2014 Early Netherlandish painting Heritage official
Dickerman, LeahLeah Dickerman American Modern art, Contemporary art Curator, art historian
DilkeEmilia, Lady Dilke[23] English 1840–1904
Joan Evans British 1893–1977 French and English mediaeval art Art historian
Fernandez-Cao, Marian LopezMarian Lopez Fernandez-Cao Spanish 1964 Spanish feminist art, Contemporary art, Sonia Delaunay University professor and researcher, former president of Asociación de Mujeres en las Artes Visuales (MAV)
Garrard, MaryMary Garrard American 1940– Italian Baroque art and feminist art history Art historian, Author, emerita professor at American University
Graevenitz, Antje vonAntje von Graevenitz German 1940– Art historian, Art critic
Harper, PaulaPaula Harper American 1930–2012 Feminist art, Camille Pissarro, contemporary art Art historian, art critic, art lecturer, author
Hoff, UrsulaUrsula Hoff German, Australian 1909–2005
Hoffmann, MeikeMeike Hoffmann German 1962
Holly, Michael AnnMichael Ann Holly American Historiography of Art History Art historian
Jim, Alice Ming WaiAlice Ming Wai Jim Canadian Contemporary Asian art, contemporary Asian Canadian art, remix culture Professor, art historian, curator
Jones, KellieKellie Jones American 1959– African-American art and artists Professor, curator, MacArthur Fellow
Jones, AmeliaAmelia Jones American 1961 Dada, Feminist art, Performance art, Body art Art historian, art theorist, curator, author, university professor, art critic
Klonk, CharlotteCharlotte Klonk German Modern Art, Contemporary Art, Museology Art historian
Krauss, RosalindRosalind Krauss American 1941
Lemieux, AnnetteAnnette Lemieux American 1957–present Contemporary art Professor, artist
Levetus, Amelia SarahAmelia Sarah Levetus British, Austrian 1853–1938 Modern art Author, cultural journalist
Lewis, SamellaSamella Lewis American 1924 African-American art Art historian, art critic, and artist (printmaker)
Lippard, LucyLucy Lippard American 1937 Contemporary Art Art critic, curator
Montagu, JenniferJennifer Montagu British 1931 Italian Baroque sculpture Art historian
Müller-Ebeling, ClaudiaClaudia Müller-Ebeling German 1956
Mulvey, LauraLaura Mulvey English 1941 feminist film theorist
Natif, MikaMika Natif Israeli Islamic painting: Central Asia, Iran, India, and the Mediterranean Art historian
Der Nersessian, SirarpieSirarpie Der Nersessian Armenian 1896-1989 Armenian and Byzantine studies Art Historian and Museum Director
Nochlin, LindaLinda Nochlin[24] American 1931–2017 Feminist art history Art historian
Philip, Lotte BrandLotte Brand Philip German 1910–1986
Pollock, GriseldaGriselda Pollock [25] English, Canadian 1949–
Prettejohn, ElizabethElizabeth Prettejohn American 1961– Victorian Art, Pre-Raphaelites Art historian, Professor, curator, author
Raven, ArleneArlene Raven American 1944–2006 Feminist art movement in the United States Art historian, art critic, and founder of the Los Angeles Woman's Building)
Rebay, HillaHilla Rebay German, American 1890-1967 Modern art Co-founder and first director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, abstract artist, art collector
Robbins, TrinaTrina Robbins American 1938 History of comics Artist and writer
Rose, BarbaraBarbara Rose American 1938
Rottenberg, AndaAnda Rottenberg Polish 1944–
Schopenhauer, JohannaJohanna Schopenhauer [26] German 1766–1838 Artist, author
Shabout, NadaNada Shabout American 1962 Modern Iraqi art Art historian
Silverman, KajaKaja Silverman American 1947– Film theorist, art historian
Silvestri-Levy, AlessandraAlessandra Silvestri-Levy Brazilian 1900s– Producer and witer
Stafford, Barbara MariaBarbara Maria Stafford American Art historian
Steinitz, KateKate Steinitz [27] German, American 1889–1975 Artist, art historian
Stiles, KristineKristine Stiles American 1947– Art historian, curator
Stokes, MargaretMargaret Stokes [28] Irish 1832–1900 Antiquarian
Stokstad, MarilynMarilyn Stokstad [29] American 1929–2016 Medieval and Spanish art Art historian, professor, author
Swindler, Mary HamiltonMary Hamilton Swindler [30] American 1884–1967 Ancient classical painting Archeologist, professor
Temkin, AnnAnn Temkin American 1959– Curator American painting and sculpture
Thompson, Dorothy BurrDorothy Burr Thompson [31] American 1900–2001
Tietze-Conrat, EricaErica Tietze-Conrat [32] Austrian, American 1883–1958 Contemporary Viennese Art, Renaissance art, the Venetian school Academic lecturer
Tipping, MarjorieMarjorie Tipping [33] Australian 1917–2009 Historian
Toynbee, JocelynJocelyn Toynbee [34] English 1897–1985
Tucker, MarciaMarcia Tucker [35] American 1940–2006
Tufts, EleanorEleanor Tufts American 1927–1991 American women artists, works by Luis Egidio Meléndez Academic lecturer, writer
Valland, RoseRose Valland French 1898–1980 Commission for the Recovery of Works of Art (during WWII)
Vermeule, EmilyEmily Vermeule American 1928–2001 Ancient Greek art, Mycenaean culture Classical scholar and archaeologist, professor at Harvard University.[36]
Vetulani, CecyliaCecylia Vetulani Polish 1908–1980
Wagner, AnneAnne Wagner American 1949- Modern and contemporary art Art historian,

Professor emerita

Wagner-Rieger, RenateRenate Wagner-Rieger [37] Austrian 1921–1980 Architecture, historicism Academic lecturer
Welch, EvelynEvelyn Welch American 1959– Renaissance and early modern Art historian, professor
Wharton, EdithEdith Wharton [38] American 1862–1937 Architecture Writer
Whinney, MargaretMargaret Whinney [39] English 1897–1975 English art history Academic lecturer
Williams, SylviaSylvia Williams American 1936–1996 African art Curator, museum director
Wilson, SarahSarah Wilson English
Wischnitzer, RachelRachel Wischnitzer German 1885–1989 Jewish art history architect, art historian
Wittkower, MargotMargot Wittkower German, American 1902-1995 Neo-Palladian Architecture, Italian Renaissance, Baroque Writer, Interior Design
Woodall, JoannaJoanna Woodall British Portraiture, Netherlandish Art
Woodall, MaryMary Woodall British 1901–1988 Thomas Gainsborough scholar Museum director, curator
Yates, FrancesFrances Yates [40] English 1899–1981 Renaissance
Zahorska, StefaniaStefania Zahorska Polish 1890–1961 Polish prosaist
Zorach, RebeccaRebecca Zorach American 1969– Early modern European, contemporary Art historian, professor



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