NICHOLAS FRIEND MA (Oxon), MA (Cantab), FRSA, Founder and Director of INSCAPE Fine Art Study Tours Ltd, and co-Founder of Friend&Friend Ltd has been teaching adults in galleries, museums and country houses for over 30 years. He has taught for the Wallace Collection, the National Gallery and Sotheby’s, and has conducted many tours at home and abroad. For 25 years he directed Cambridge University’s History of Art Summer School. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Companion of the Guild of St. George.
In 1971, the prestigious journal ‘ArtNews’ published a revolutionary essay by the American art historian Linda Nochlin in which she both posited and answered her own question, Why have there been no great women painters? She responded, ‘The fault lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles or our empty internal spaces, but in our institutions and education. All the nonexistent female Newtons and Bachs and Leonardos and Shakespeares had no more chance of leaping out of the prisons of their societal Fates, than any Greek slave or nomad’s child in Yemen.’ Nochlin argued that significant familial and societal barriers prevented women from entering the art world. She included restrictions on educating women in art academies as well as “the entire romantic, elitist, individual-glorifying, and monograph-producing substructure upon which the profession of art history is based.” Indeed, the standard introductory text for more than a generation of American art history scholars and students in the United States was Jansen’s 800 page volume, A History of Art, first published in 1962, in which female painters received just eight brief mentions. The whole panoply of what constitutes greatness in art has been determined and dictated by male art historians.
Let us consider the external impediments for 19c-early 20c women painters in London. Wanting a studio of one’s own in which to think, gestate ideas, sketch and paint? Forbidden! Wanting to join one’s fellow Academicians in the RA’s Life Room? Forbidden! Wanting to paint a splendidly dressed male sitter while alone in the room? Forbidden! Wanting to stand by yourself in a glorious landscape and paint the clouds, the sky, the fields, flora and fauna? Forbidden! Wanting to earn an independent income from your paintings? Forbidden!… ad nauseam. In the 19c and beyond, women simply could not avail themselves of art academies, studios, guilds, assistants and other supports vital to the creation and production of ‘master’-pieces
.Furthermore, how in the short lifetime they could expect at any time before the 19c, have women produced any paintings at all, let alone works of distinction?
This course seeks to throw back the dark curtains behind which the majority of woman artists- some widely celebrated during their lifetime- have languished in relative or complete obscurity due to chauvinistic norms in museums and galleries, collections, and in pedagogy. We seek to reveal not only female artists who have been hidden from view, but to examine the ones who were able to break free from their handcuffs to become visible and powerful as most of them required a father’s or partner’s financial and other support. It will tell a tale not only of supreme talent and accomplishment, but of enormous courage against societal and family restrictions.
We will discover that certain cave paintings must have been made by women; that there are truly significant Renaissance women as well as Renaissance men; that some of the most sensitive portraitists of the French Revolution were women; that women impressionists’ mastery of scintillating light was instinctive and brilliant; that pioneering late 19c painters in Norway, Sweden and Finland were women; that the female partners of Kandinsky (Gabriele Münter), Edward Hopper, (Josephine Hopper), Jackson Pollock (Lee Krasner), and Willem de Kooning (Elaine de Kooning) produced work which was unique and important. Prior to the late 20c few women managed to produce an entire body of work, and, few have yet to be allowed their place in the pantheon of the ‘Masters’: Rembrandt, Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, et al.
This will be a revelatory course covering the work of artists many of whom you may never have heard about before. We will strive to build up a realistic picture of what women were actually up to while the great monuments of European painting were being created. We will not exaggerate the achievements of an arbitrarily chosen few by repeating the legends that have grown up around single figures. Instead, we will attempt to rejoin those rare individuals to the body of women from whom they have been separated. We will endeavour to place them as individuals in the cultural and social background in which they all faced obstacles both external and internal. Their determination to express the power of their creativity and achieve what truly was and is their birthright makes this course a tale of perseverance, sprinkled here and there with acts that could be described as nothing if not audacious.
Cost: All twelve sessions £360 or £35 per individual session. All sessions are limited to 23 participants to permit discussion.
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