By Charlotte Lee
The statement that “there have been no supremely great women artists” is, admittedly, an unexpected basis for the most influential feminist essay in art history. Or, for that matter, one of the most influential essays in the field full stop. However, Linda Nochlin specialised in subverting the norm and with her death aged 86 on the 29 October 2017, the world lost an exceptional feminist and scholar.
In her 1971 essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? Nochlin held the field of art history to account by railing against the convention that ‘Great Art’ is produced in a vacuum by an individual with Great Genius. She argued that ‘Great Art’ is produced by those with the freedom and education to do so; overwhelmingly white men. This was a seminal turning point in the field, as was her later work on the racism implicit in the tradition of artistic orientalism.
Nochlin changed how women and their art are seen, and she will be missed. However, her work lives on in the artists and feminists who succeed her in the belief that…
“the fault lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles, or our empty internal spaces, but in our institutions and our education.”