Linda Nochlin was an American writer, Art Historian and Professor of Modern Art at New York University Institute of Fine Arts. She was a prominent feminist art historian who became well known for her pioneering article Why have there been no great women artists? published in 1971. Besides her contribution on feminist art history, she is known for her work on Realism, specifically on Gustave Courbet.
Nochlin directed her critical attention to the investigation of the ways in which gender affects the creation and apprehension of art. This was evidenced by her essay Issues of Gender in Cassatt and Eakins that she published in 1994. She also served on the Art Advisory Council of the International Foundation for Art Research.
She was also the co-curator of a number of landmark exhibitions exploring the history and achievements of female artists, such as:
- Women Artists: 1550-1950 – with Ann Sutherland Harris at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1976) it was the first art exhibition created solely by female artists, it debuted 83 artists from 12 countries. In the catalogue of the exhibition both curators stated “Our intention in assembling these works by European and American women artists active from 1550 to 1950 is to make more widely known the achievements of some fine artists whose neglect can in part be attributed to their sex and to learn more about why and how women artists first emerged as rare exceptions in the 16th century and gradually became more numerous until they were a largely accepted part of the cultural scene.”
- Global Feminisms – in March 2007, alongside Dr. Maura Reilly at the Elizabeth A. Sacker Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. It was the first international exhibition exclusively dedicated to feminist art, and it featured works from approximately 88 women artists from around the world. The show featured art in all forms of media: painting and sculpture, but also photography, video and performance. The goal of the exhibition was to move beyond the dominating brand of Western feminism, and instead showcase different understandings of feminist art and feminism itself from a global perspective.
Why have there been no great women artists?
Here she explored assumptions embedded in the question of the title. This essay not only impacted the way we view feminist art, but also in the way how we view women’s recognition in other careers, inspiring other essays such as “Why have there been no great women chefs?” by Charlotte Druckman, in which the author follows Nochlin’s footsteps.
In this article Nochlin considered the very nature of art along with the reasons why the notion of artistic genius has been reserved for male geniuses. She argued that significant societal barriers have prevented women from pursuing art, including restrictions on educating women in art academies and “the entire romantic, elitist, individual-glorifying, and monograph-producing substructure upon which the profession of art history is based”.