Women in Art History

Following the world wide feminist revolution of the later twentieth century, women became a renovated subject for the history of the arts and the art world. Gender is to be understood as an initially patriarchal, phallocentric symbolic order, power framework.

A new and theoretical and militant feminist awareness originally commanded the recovery of women’s historical contribution to the international history of art, in an effort against the successful erasure of women’s history as artists in the contemporary field of art history. The contributions of women as art history-makers to the discipline itself was also rediscovered. Analyzing gender poses the repressed gender (and sexuality) problem in relation to creativity itself and to the writing of artistic history, which is inherently plural. Gender refers to the asymmetrical hierarchy of those who distinguish themselves, on the basis of perceived but not defining discrepancies, both socially and symbolically.

Although the processes of social and ideological division are projected as natural differences between the given sexes, their effects are gender differences which are ideologically defined as “natural.” Sex can be shown as an axis of power relations to form and determine artistic depictions of the social life of men and women. Gender is thus often seen in text, photographs, buildings and discussions about art as a symmetrical dimension that forms hierarchical opposition in representation. The work done by art and writing about art is constantly created. Feminist analyses criticize these gender technologies and, at the same time, are critical of social and symbolic change.

In writing art history and art, itself, therefore, the study of gender ideologies extends to art made by all artists regardless the artist’s sexual orientation. After women have been removed from the gendering discourses of modern Art History, those speeches produced have to be retrieved from forgetfulness, while an ideology that puts feminine things in secondary position needs to restore the concept of women as artists. However, women are not a gender-defined homogeneous group alone. Females are distinguished agonistically by class, race, history, faith, geopolitics, sexuality, and abilities. Gender analysis involves the interplay between various axes of differenzation and their symbolic representations without preconceptions as to how each work/artist could negotiate and rework dominant gender and other social discourses. The postcolonial critique of Western hegemony and the search for non-Western inclusive models which respect diversity and do not create normative relativism drives the trend of research into sex and the history of art to include, in general terms, not separate sub-categories based on g but on gender.

The aim of critical art historical practices focusing on gender and relevant points of influence is to provide consistent and comprehensive research into all artists irrespective of gender for whom a specific initiative focusing on women as artists has been needed in order to correct a skewed and sex-selective archive and to expand the art historical conceptual framework generally in order to make sure that.


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