Art Quote of the Day: Women artists expected to give up more to achieve less

Welcome to Gender Oppression Week here at Exiled Stardust.

That achievement in the arts, as in any field of endeavor, demands struggle and sacrifice is undeniable; that this has certainly been true after the middle of the 19th century, when the traditional institutions of artistic support and patronage no longer fulfilled their customary obligations, is also undeniable. One has only to think of Delacroix, Courbet, Degas, Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec as examples of great artists who gave up the distractions and obligations of family life, at least in part, so that they could pursue their artistic careers more single-mindedly.  Yet none of them wa automatically denied the pleasure of sex or companionship on account of this choice.  Nor did they ever conceive that they had sacrificed their manhood or their sexual role on account of their single-mindedness in achieving professional fulfillment.  But if the artist in question happened to be a woman, one thousand years of guilt, self-doubt, and objecthood would have been added to the undeniable difficulties of being an artist in the modern world.

…Always a model but never an artist might well have served as the motto of the seriously aspiring young woman of the arts of the 19th century.

— Linda Nochlin

…and of the 20th and 21st centuries. Emphasis mine.

The rest of Nochlin’s excellent article is here and is fascinating to read despite the typos.

Every woman artist, just like every other woman, has had the difficult choice of either not having a family, or struggling to produce quality work despite the massive energy drain of coping with a husband and children – because even now in a time where men and women are supposedly “nearly equal”, women still do the lion’s share of the domestic labor.

Society romanticizes the Great (male) Artist as he goes his rebellious way in life, struggling to express his genius, and he is sure to be immortal someday, but when a woman does the same thing, she’s just a weird chick who is playing around with art because she couldn’t get a man, and no need to take her seriously.

If men and women are “nearly equal” now, why are women artists still trivialized or ignored?

3 thoughts on “Art Quote of the Day: Women artists expected to give up more to achieve less

  1. One of the more interesting courses from my art school days, was a sociology course ‘Women in Art’. The course for the most part was set up for women.To look at issues and problems facing women in art. I was the only male enrolled. I think at first I was at suspect and many thought they seen a bulls eye on my fore head. But they never got a chance. Instead I was somewhat more sympathetic that many women there. I would hope it is better now than it was than. There are far more women studies in this than ever before. Problem is I still think women more than men show any interest in this ?

    • Yes. This is because “women’s studies”, like anything else labeled especially for females, is deemed inferior and the average male wouldn’t go anywhere near it for fear of losing social status. Anything by, for or about women is automatically inferior, because women are inferior. Or so our society believes, despite lip service about women’s equality and how the women’s movement is basically over now because we got everything we wanted. No, actually, we never got fully human status, and that’s all we wanted.

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