Linda Nochlin’s seminal essay on women artists is widely acknowledged as the first real attempt at a feminist history of art. Nochlin refused to handle the question of why there had been no ‘great women artists’ on its own, corrupted, terms. Instead, she dismantled the very concept of ‘greatness’, unravelling the basic assumptions that had centred a male-coded ‘genius’ in the study of art. With unparalleled insight and startling wit, Nochlin laid bare the acceptance of a white male viewpoint in art historical thought as not merely a moral failure, but an intellectual one. Freedom, as she sees it, requires women to risk entirely demolishing the art world’s institutions, and rebuilding them anew – in other words, to leap into the unknown.
In this stand-alone anniversary edition, Nochlin’s essay is published alongside its reappraisal, ‘Thirty Years After’. Written in an era of thriving feminist theory, as well as queer theory, race and postcolonial studies, ‘Thirty Years After’ is a striking reflection on the emergence of a whole new canon. With reference to Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and many more, Nochlin diagnoses the state of women and art with unmatched precision and verve. ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ has become a slogan and rallying cry that resonates across culture and society; Dior even adopted it in their 2018 collections. In the 2020s, at a time when ‘certain patriarchal values are making a comeback’, Nochlin's message could not be more urgent: as she herself put it in 2015, ‘there is still a long way to go’.
'Brilliant ... Nochlin, when you agree with her and when you don’t, is unputdownable' - Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times
'Linda Nochlin’s brilliant essay burst upon us in 1971, illuminating the half-empty landscape of art history and opening the way for new feminist thinking about women, art and society. Even as we now know that there have been many great women artists past and present, we still need Linda’s sharp analysis of social institutions, prejudice and systemic failure to foster the creativity of all women and learn from their unique and diverse perspectives' - Professor Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds), Laureate of the Holberg Prize for Arts and Humanities 2020
'Bold and candid' - The Art Newspaper
About the Author
Linda Nochlin (1931–2017) was Lila Acheson Wallace Professor Emerita of Modern Art at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts. She wrote extensively on issues of gender in art history and on 19th-century Realism. Her numerous publications include Women, Art and Power, Representing Women and Courbet, as well as the pioneering essay from 1971: ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’