Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Reader

Dr. K. C. Motl

Second Reader

Professor Ferris Williams

Third Reader

Dr. Sara Hubbard

Abstract

The misconception that artists of centuries past were almost exclusively men is no accident. It is a direct result of institutional inequity that kept women artists, though they lacked neither the talent nor the initiative of their counterparts, in a less advantageous position. They were denied the same opportunities for education and employment as men, and many women artists, even those with successful careers, have been lost to history. With this essay, I hope to give women artists the credit they deserve for their diversity. Not all women experienced their position in the art world the same way. Some sought the very praise men used to undermine their talents. Others sought to distance themselves from other women and shake the feminine characteristics they felt discredited their achievements. Some went so far as to sign their paintings as men, avoiding association with womanhood entirely. It would be a great disservice to flatten such a large, varied group of women with blanket statements. Each woman artist over the course of history has navigated her different circumstances in her own way. For the purpose of my research, I have focused solely on the Western art world. This means that the majority of women discussed here will be white. It is important to recognize that to be a woman of color in the art world has always been and continues to be a different and, by most metrics, more challenging experience.

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