Linda Nochlin, a pioneering scholar who famously shepherded feminist theory into the art-historical canon, died yesterday afternoon at the age of 86. She is best known for “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” a searing takedown of gender inequality in the art establishment.
When the essay was first published by ARTnews in 1971, it promptly began to shake the deep-seated patriarchal underpinnings of the art world by asserting: “The fault lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles, or our empty internal spaces, but in our institutions and our education.”
Other groundbreaking writing followed. Woman as Sex Object: Studies in Erotic Art, 1730–1970 (1973) and Women, Art and Power (1988), for instance, combined Nochlin’s incisive intelligence with her passion for communicating art’s cultural influence. She used humor and wit to communicate her interests, too. In 1972, she responded to an erotic French photograph of a nude woman holding a tray of apples at chest level by creating a new image. Buy My Bananas, as she titled the piece, replaced the lady with a nude man, and the apples with a tray of bananas held just below his penis.
She also contributed innovative research and writing to scholarship on 19th-century French artists like Gustave Courbet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Georges Seurat, and groundbreaking essays on radical contemporary feminist artists from Louise Bourgeois to Sarah Lucas.
Beyond her wide-ranging scholarly achievements, Nochlin is also remembered for her intellectual generosity and persistent support of aspiring art historians, delivered through many years teaching at Vassar College, Yale University, and New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, where she was a professor from 1992 until her retirement in 2013. (She continued to write after she left NYU; her newest book, Misère: The Visual Representation of Misery in the 19th Century, will be released in March 2018.) Read more