When it comes to the art world, men tend to have it a great deal easier than women. We would not have known quite as much about the plight of women in the art world had it not been for Linda Nochlin, one of the most divisive, acerbic and utterly iconic art historians in the world, who died on the 29th of October at the ripe old age of 86. She is perhaps best known for her essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”, where her fiery rhetoric shed light on how much women struggle in the art world and how the system tends to be rigged against them.
Her career, which spanned five decades during which she worked as a writer, lecturer and curator, she helped create a new wave of feminist art that was meant to balance the scales and make it easier for women to make a name for themselves and be taken seriously in an artistic ecosystem that had almost always been exclusively a boys club. It is fair to say that without Nochlin, the little progress women have been able to make in the world of art would not have happened at all, and women would still be struggling to get recognition due to the biases that exist against them both in society as well as within the enclosed bubble of the art community.
However, all of that being said, it would be unfair to Nochlin’s legacy if one were to just focus on her feminist rhetoric. Even when not promoting female artists, Nochlin had a way of simply describing the quality of great works of art, with her sharp eye noticing all kinds of details that laymen and even other critics might have ended up missing. She also wrote quite a bit about left leaning politics which she had been involved in from a very young age.
Nochlin was born to a wealthy Jewish family in Brooklyn where she was raised, and from her youth her mother made sure that she was surrounded by artistic people so that she would develop a passion for creating. While Nochlin herself did not have much interest in creating art, her hunger for consuming it was certainly stoked which allowed her to learn about art and how it can be objectively good. From a very young age she sought artists that tried to push boundaries, whether through their artistic techniques and experiments or through creating art that would make people uneasy and force them to step outside their comfort zone.
Though she lived a full and long life, she will still be sorely missed. Her presence in the art community helped make it a little more legitimate, because she often brought artists from the fringe into the mainstream. She is the forebear for every boundary pushing art critic in the world today, and because of her art is always going to be just a little more inclusive than it used to be.