Women in the art history field

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Elderly Lady (circa 1740), painting by Rosalba Carriera
Elderly Lady (circa 1740), painting by Rosalba Carriera

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 1930s", 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 Birth date Specialization Profession
Maryan Ainsworth American 14th, 15th and 16th century Northern European painting, particularly in Early Netherlandish painting Kress-Beinecke Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery in Washington DC.[14] She is also a curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Svetlana Alpers American b. 1936 Dutch Golden Age Painting Art historian
Amalia Amaki American b. 1949 American art Artist, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa from 2007 to 2012.[15]
Clementina Anstruther-Thomson Scottish 1857–1921 Experimental aesthetics during the Victorian era Author, art theorist, art critic
Paola Antonelli Italian b. 1963 Modern Art, design Curator
Caroline Arscott English Victorian art, 19th century art Art historian
Muqadamma Ashrafi Tajikistani 1936–2013 Medieval arts and painting of Central Asia Author, researcher
Dore Ashton American b. 1928 Modern Art, contemporary Art Writer, professor, art critic
Pamela Askew American 1925–1997 Domenico Fetti and Caravaggio Professor
Nurhan Atasoy Turkish b. 1934 Ottoman art and architecture Art historian
Erna Auerbach German 1897–1975 Tudor period in England, feminist art Author
Myrtilla 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.
Barbara Baert Belgian b. 1967 Medieval iconology Art historian
Mieke Bal Dutch b. 1946 Modern Art, Contemporary Art Cultural theorist, video artist
Anna Banti Italian 1895–1985 Italian Baroque, female artists Writer, art historian, art critic, translator
Luisa Banti Italian 1894–1978 Etruscan art Archaeologist, art historian, writer
Ruth Barnes British b. 1956 Material culture, South and Southeast Asian Textiles Art historian, curator
Wendy Beckett (aka 'Sister Wendy') British b. 1930 Catholic art Art historian, Catholic nun
Ellen Beer Swiss 1926–2004 Medieval art Art historian, professor
Lottlisa Behling German 1909–1989 Medieval art Art historian, professor
Mary Berenson [16][17] American 1864–1945 Italian Renaissance Art historian, lecturer
Laurence Bertrand Dorléac French b. 1957 Modern and contemporary Art historian, professor, curator
Margarete Bieber [18] German 1879–1978 Theatre, sculpture, and clothing of ancient Rome and Greece Art historian, professor
Gertrud Bing German 1892–1964 Classical tradition Director of the Warburg Institute[19]
Jean Sutherland Boggs [20] Canadian b. 1922 Nineteenth-century French art, Degas Curator, art historian, and first female director of the National Gallery of Canada
Alice Boner Swiss 1889–1981 Indian symbols in art history Art historian focused on symbols in Indian art, also an artist
Evelina Borea Italian b. 1931 Italian art history Author, curator
Norma Broude American b. 1941 Impressionism and feminist art history Art historian, Author and emerita professor at American University
Frances Borzello British Feminist art history including; social history of art, female portraiture, and female nudes. Author, scholar, feminist art critic
Adelyn Dohme Breeskin American 1896–1986 Mary Cassatt Curator, museum director, and art historian at Baltimore Museum of Art
Anita Brookner English b. 1936 Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Jacques-Louis David Author, Slade professor of fine art at Cambridge University,[21] her early work focused on art history and later work was fiction novels
Lillian Browse British 1906–2005 Augustus John, Edgar Degas, James Dickson Innes Art dealer, art historian
Coosje van Bruggen Dutch, American 1942–2009 Dutch avant-garde art Artist, art historian[22]
Palma Bucarelli Italian 1910–1998 avant-garde art Director of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (GNAM) from 1942 to 1975, art critic
Anneliese Bulling German, American 1900–2004 Sinologist, Chinese art and architecture Art lecturer, art historian
Andrianna Campbell American Nineteenth and twentieth-century American art, Norman Lewis, Abstract Expressionism Art historian, curator
Teresa Gisbert Carbonell Bolivian b. 1926 Andean art history Art historian
Mary Ann Caws American b. 1933 Modern Art, contemporary art Author, literary critic, art historian
Whitney Chadwick American b. 1943 Feminist art critic, contemporary art, modernism, Surrealism, gender and sexuality Author, Professor Emerita at San Francisco State University
Betty Churcher Australian 1931–2015 Art historian, first female director of the National Gallery of Australia[23]
Alessandra Comini American b. 1934 American women artists, Egon Schiele's portraiture Academic lecturer, writer, a founder of the Women’s Caucus for Art
Mildred Constantine American 1913–2008 Poster Art, graphic design Art historian and curator at Museum of Modern Art in the 1950s and 1960s
Lynne Cooke Australian Modern art, contemporary art Curator
Parisa Damandan Iranian b. 1967 20th century Iranian photography Author, historian
Rocio de la Villa Spanish b. 1959 Spanish feminist art, contemporary art Curator, university professor, president of Spanish Society of Aesthetics and Theory of the Arts,[24] a co-founders of Asociación de Mujeres en las Artes Visuales (MAV)
Anne d'Harnoncourt American 1943–2008 Marcel Duchamp Curator and director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Layla S. Diba American 18th/19th-century and contemporary Persian art and the Qajar period Iranian-American independent scholar and curator.
Elisabeth Dhanens Belgian 1915–2014 Early Netherlandish painting Heritage official
Leah Dickerman American Modern art, Contemporary art Curator, art historian
Emilia Dilke British 1840–1904 18th-century French art Author, art historian, feminist and trade unionist.[25]
Sharada Dwivedi Indian 1942–2012 Indian art and architecture history Author of Indian and Mumbaiart and architecture history books
Joan Evans British 1893–1977 French and English mediaeval art Art historian
Margaret Henderson Floyd American 1932–1997 Boston architecture including Henry Hobson Richardson, and Longfellow, Alden and Harlow. Professor of Architectural History at Tufts University.
Marian Lopez Fernandez-Cao Spanish b. 1964 Spanish feminist art, contemporary art, and the works of Sonia Delaunay University professor and researcher, former president of Asociación de Mujeres en las Artes Visuales (MAV)
Helen Gardner American 1878–1946 Author of Art Through the Ages, an art history textbook
Mary Garrard American b. 1940 Italian Baroque art and feminist art history Art historian, Author, emerita professor at American University
Antje von Graevenitz German b. 1940 20th and 21st-century art Art historian, Art critic
Paula Harper American 1930–2012 Feminist art, Camille Pissarro, contemporary art Art historian, art critic, art lecturer, author
Ursula Hoff German, Australian 1909–2005 Australian art, the works of Rembrandt Scholar, academic, curator, author, critic, and lecturer. Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (1968–1973); London Adviser of the Felton Bequest (1975–83).
Meike Hoffmann German b. 1962 Die Brücke art movement, German art history Provenance researcher, author
Michael Ann Holly American Historiography of Art History Art historian
Alice Ming Wai Jim Canadian Contemporary Asian art, contemporary Asian Canadian art, remix culture Professor, art historian, curator
Kellie Jones American b. 1959 African-American art and artists Professor, curator, MacArthur Fellow
Amelia Jones American b. 1961 Dada, Feminist art, Performance art, Body art Art historian, art theorist, curator, author, university professor, art critic
Ebba Koch Austrian Indian art history, Mughal-era (architecture, gardens, painting, applied arts), and connecting imperial symbolism. A professor at the Institute of Art History in Vienna, Austria.
Charlotte Klonk German Modern Art, Contemporary Art, Museology Art historian
Rosalind Krauss American b. 1941 20th-century painting, sculpture and photography Author, associate editor of Artforum from 1971 to 1974, professor at Columbia University
Annette Kuhn British b. 1945 Feminist film theory, visual culture, cultural memory Author, researcher, historian
Lynne Lawner American Renaissance Author, scholar, historian with an emphasis on iconographical themes, the meaning of art, as well as social customs.
Annette Lemieux American b. 1957 Contemporary art Professor, artist
Amelia Sarah Levetus British, Austrian 1853–1938 Modern art Author, cultural journalist
Samella Lewis American b. 1924 African-American art Art historian, art critic, and artist (printmaker)
Lucy Lippard American b. 1937 Contemporary Art Art critic, curator
Catherine Mason British Computer art,digital art Art historian
Jennifer Montagu British b. 1931 Italian Baroque sculpture Art historian
Doula Mouriki Greek 1934–1991 Byzantinologist, Historian of Art Professor
Claudia Müller-Ebeling German b. 1956 Healing arts, shamanism Author
Laura Mulvey English b. 1941 Feminist film theory feminist film theorist, professor at Birkbeck, University of London
Mika Natif Israeli Islamic painting: Central Asia, Iran, India, and the Mediterranean Art historian
Sirarpie Der Nersessian Armenian 1896–1989 Armenian and Byzantine studies Art Historian and Museum Director
Linda Nochlin[26] American 1931–2017 Feminist art history Art historian
Elizabeth Norton British Tudor period, queens of England Author, specializing in archaeology and anthropology.
Lotte Brand Philip German 1910–1986
Griselda Pollock [27] English, Canadian b. 1949
Elizabeth Prettejohn American b. 1961 Victorian Art, Pre-Raphaelites Art historian, Professor, curator, author
Arlene Raven American 1944–2006 Feminist art movement in the United States Art historian, art critic, and founder of the Los Angeles Woman's Building
Hilla Rebay German, American 1890–1967 Modern art Co-founder and first director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, abstract artist, art collector
Trina Robbins American b. 1938 History of comics Artist and writer
Barbara Rose American b. 1938
Anda Rottenberg Polish b. 1944
Bente Scavenius Danish b. 1944 Danish art history Independent scholar, art critic, and author
Johanna Schopenhauer [28] German 1766–1838 Artist, author
Nada Shabout American b. 1962 Modern Iraqi art Art historian
Kaja Silverman American b. 1947 Film theorist, art historian
Alessandra Silvestri-Levy Brazilian Producer and writer
Barbara Maria Stafford American b. 1941 Developments in imaging arts, optical sciences, and performance technologies Art historian, researcher
Nina Howell Starr American 1903–2000 American roadside attractions, American folk art, Outsider artists Art historian, photographer, curator, art dealer[29]
Kate Steinitz [30] German, American 1889–1975 Artist, art historian
Kristine Stiles American b. 1947 Art historian, curator
Margaret Stokes [31] Irish 1832–1900 Antiquarian
Marilyn Stokstad [32] American 1929–2016 Medieval and Spanish art Art historian, professor, author
Z. S. Strother American 20th and 21st-century Central and West African art history Professor of African Art at Columbia University
Deborah Swallow British b. 1948 Indian art history Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art since 2004.
Mary Hamilton Swindler [33] American 1884–1967 Ancient classical painting Archeologist, professor
Ann Temkin American b. 1959 Curator American painting and sculpture
Dorothy Burr Thompson [34] American 1900–2001
Erica Tietze-Conrat [35] Austrian, American 1883–1958 Contemporary Viennese Art, Renaissance art, the Venetian school Academic lecturer
Marjorie Tipping [36] Australian 1917–2009 Historian
Jocelyn Toynbee [37] English 1897–1985
Marcia Tucker [38] American 1940–2006
Eleanor Tufts American 1927–1991 American women artists, works by Luis Egidio Meléndez Academic lecturer, writer
Rose Valland French 1898–1980 Commission for the Recovery of Works of Art (during WWII)
Emily Vermeule American 1928–2001 Ancient Greek art, Mycenaean culture Classical scholar and archaeologist, professor at Harvard University.[39]
Cecylia Vetulani Polish 1908–1980
Anne Wagner American b. 1949 Modern and contemporary art Art historian,

Professor emerita

Renate Wagner-Rieger [40] Austrian 1921–1980 Architecture, historicism Academic lecturer
Evelyn Welch American b. 1959 Renaissance and early modern Art historian, professor
Edith Wharton [41] American 1862–1937 Architecture Writer
Margaret Whinney [42] English 1897–1975 English art history Academic lecturer
Sylvia Williams American 1936–1996 African art Curator, museum director
Sarah Wilson English Pierre Klossowski, Henri Matisse, Post-structuralism Professor at Courtauld Institute, author
Rachel Wischnitzer German 1885–1989 Jewish art history architect, art historian
Margot Wittkower German, American 1902–1995 Neo-Palladian Architecture, Italian Renaissance, Baroque Writer, Interior Design
Joanna Woodall British b. 1956 Portraiture, Netherlandish Art
Mary Woodall British 1901–1988 Thomas Gainsborough scholar Museum director, curator
Frances Yates [43] English 1899–1981 Renaissance
Stefania Zahorska Polish 1890–1961 Polish prosaist
Hilde Zaloscer Austrian 1903–1999 Coptic Art Art historian, professor at University of Alexandria and Carleton University Ottawa.
Marie-Cécile Zinsou French-Beninese b. 1982 Contemporary art in Africa President of Fondation Zinsou and in 2014 she found the Museum of Contemporary Art in Benin, the first museum of art in the country.
Rebecca Zorach American b. 1969 Early modern European, contemporary Art historian, professor


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