Power and Absence:
Women in Europe: 1500-1680
Member Preview December 9-10 | Opening December 11
This reimagining of the Schilling Gallery explores the representation of women in Europe from around 1500 to 1680, known as the Renaissance and Early Baroque period. Most of the works in this room have been made by men. Women are represented as untouchable ideals, threatening monsters, enterprising community leaders, ornamental accessories to power, and models of faith. Portraits of men, meanwhile, express their power, talents, or intellect.
The museum holds work by only one woman artist from this time, Sofonisba Anguissola, displayed in the gallery. This startling fact is not unusual for art museums. From the Renaissance through to the end of the nineteenth century, women could not formally train as artists because of societal expectations and gender roles. Some women, like Anguissola, used family connections to overcome the social and political limitations of their time and achieved artistic success. Yet long-lasting reputations were dependent on the opinions of later generations. Decisions about which artists are praised in the history books and collected by museums were largely made by men. Social systems stifled the talent of countless women artists, lost to history.
Notably absent are representations of women of color from this period in museum collections, including the Brooks. This gallery questions these representations and omissions as we reinterpret our permanent collection to create a more equitable museum.
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Resources to learn and read more:
Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?
The American art theorist Linda Nochlin (1931-2017) posed this question as the title of a pioneering article in 1971. It was a response to a question by the art dealer Richard Feigen, who said “Linda, I would love to show women artists, but I can’t find any good ones. Why are there no great women artists?” Nochlin argues that instead of searching for and elevating the reputations of overlooked women artists, that we should question the social and institutional structures that influence the making and viewing of art. Her essay was considered one of the first major works of Feminist art history, it has become a set text for those who study art internationally, and it is influential in many other fields.
Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Linda Nochlin