Art History, Books

Women, Art and Society

Women, Art and Society, written by the art historian Whitney Chadwick is a celebrated study that invited us to a journey throughout the history of art, focusing on women artists and analysing the foundations of their scarce celebrity.

The book, which is in its 5th edition, is a must-read for all those who want a deeper and at the same time critical approach to the role and importance of women artists in the history of art. It presents the work of those medieval nuns who illustrated manuscripts; the sad fate of Tintoretto’s daughter; the adventures of Judith Leyster, whose paintings were considered by Frans Hals.

It also analyses the relationship of women and embroidery or the creations of artists such as Sonia Delaunay, Berthe Morisot, Camille Claudel, Georgia O’Keeffe, Vanessa Bell, or Helen Frankenthaler.

In this rigorous and well-documented study, the author examines the works of art created by women artists and the ways in which they have been understood as marginal, often in direct reference to gender, the author reveals it in a way that challenges the assumption that great women artists are exceptions to the rule. In the debate on feminism and its influence on such a reappraisal, Chadwick also addresses other related issues of ethnicity, sexuality, and class.

The expanded edition incorporates some of the recent developments in contemporary art. Addressing the turn toward the importance of autobiography in much recent women’s art and considering issues such as the personal versus the political and the private versus the public, analysing the differences between the art created by women today and the feminist work of 1970s and 1980s.

Highly recommended!

More about the author

Whitney Chadwick is an art historian and educator, professor Emerita at the San Francisco State University from the School of Art. She has published on contemporary art, modernism, surrealism and gender and sexuality.

Other interesting studies by Chadwick:

  • Leonora Carrington: la realidad de la imaginacion
  • Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement


  • Chadwick, W. 2017. Women, Art and Society. Thames & Hudson. London.
  • Images credit: Natasha Moura