Many scholars have called Linda Nochlin’s seminal essay on women artists the first real attempt at a feminist history of art. In her revolutionary essay, Nochlin refused to answer the question of why there had been no “great women artists” on its own corrupted terms, and instead, she dismantled the very concept of greatness, unraveling the basic assumptions that created the male-centric genius in art.
With unparalleled insight and wit, Nochlin questioned the acceptance of a white male viewpoint in art history. And future freedom, as she saw it, requires women to leap into the unknown and risk demolishing the art world’s institutions in order to rebuild them anew.
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. In the 2020s, Nochlin’s message could not be more urgent: as she put it in 2015, “There is still a long way to go.”
Linda Nochlin (1931-2017), described by The New York Times as the “inventor of feminist art history,” was Lila Acheson Wallace professor emerita of modern art at the New York University Institute of the 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; Courbet; and Mise`re.