January 30, 1931
|Died||October 29, 2017(aged 86)|
New York University
Linda Nochlin (née Weinberg; January 30, 1931 - October 29, 2017) was an American art historian, Lila Acheson Wallace Professor Emerita of Modern Art at New York University Institute of Fine Arts, and writer. A prominent feminist art historian, she became well known for her pioneering 1971 article "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?".
Linda Natalie Weinberg was born the daughter of Jules Weinberg and Elka Heller (Weinberg) in Brooklyn, New York and raised in the borough's Crown Heights neighborhood. She attended Brooklyn Ethical Cultural School, a progressive grammar school. She received her B.A. in Philosophy from Vassar College in 1951, her M.A. in English from Columbia University in 1952, and her Ph.D in the history of art from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University in 1963.
After working in the art history departments at Yale University, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (with Rosalind Krauss), and Vassar College, Nochlin took a position at the Institute of Fine Arts, where she taught until retiring in 2013. In 2000, Self and History: A Tribute to Linda Nochlin was published, an anthology of essays developing themes that Nochlin worked on throughout her career.
Her critical attention was drawn to investigating the ways in which gender affects the creation and apprehension of art, as evidenced by her 1994 essay "Issues of Gender in Cassatt and Eakins". Besides feminist art history, she was best known for her work on Realism, specifically on Gustave Courbet.
Nochlin was the co-curator of a number of landmark exhibitions exploring the history and achievements of female artists.
In 1971, ArtNews published Nochlin's essay "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" in which she explored assumptions embedded in the title's question. She considered the very nature of art along with the reasons why the notion of artistic genius has been reserved for male geniuses such as Michelangelo. Nochlin argued that significant societal barriers have prevented women from pursuing art, including restrictions on educating women in art academies and "the entire romantic, elitist, individual-glorifying, and monograph-producing substructure upon which the profession of art history is based ". The thirty-year anniversary of Nochlin's ground-breaking inquiry informed a conference at Princeton University in 2001. The book associated with the conference, "Women artists at the Millennium", includes Nochlin's essay ""Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" Thirty Years After". In the conference and in the book, art historians addressed the innovative work of such figures as Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Francesca Woodman, Carrie Mae Weems and Mona Hatoum in the light of the legacies of thirty years of feminist art history.
In her 1994 essay "Starting from Scratch: The Beginnings of Feminist Art History," Nochlin reflected on her awakening as a feminist and its impact on her scholarship and teaching: "In 1969, three major events occurred in my life: I had a baby, I became a feminist, and I organized the first class in Women and Art at Vassar College."
Nochlin deconstructed art history by identifying and questioning methodological presuppositions. She was an advocate for "art historians who investigate the work before their eyes while focusing on its subject matter, informed by a sensitivity to its feminist spirit."
Following Edward Said's influential 1978 book, Orientalism, Nochlin was one of the first art historians to apply theories of Orientalism to the study of art history, specifically in her 1983 paper, "The Imaginary Orient." Her key assertion was that Orientalism must be seen from the point-of-view of 'the particular power structure in which these works came into being," in this case, 19th century French colonialism. Nochlin focused primarily on the 19th century French artists Jean-Leon Gérôme and Eugène Delacroix, who both depicted 'orientalist' themes in their work, including, respectively, The Snake Charmer and The Death of Sardanapalus. In Gérôme's "The Snake Charmer," from the late 1860s, Nochlin described how Gérôme created a sense of verisimilitude not only in his rendering of the scene with such realistic precision one almost forgets a painter painted it, but in capturing the most minute details, such as meticulously painted tiles. As a result, the painting appears to be documentary evidence of life in the Ottoman court while, according to Nochlin, it is in fact a Westerner's vision of a mysterious world. In Delacroix's "The Death of Sardanapalus" from 1827, Nochlin argued that the artist used Orientalism to explore overt erotic and violent themes that may not necessarily reflect France's cultural hegemony but rather the chauvinism and misogyny of early 19th century French society.
Nochlin married twice. First, in 1953 she married Philip H. Nochlin, an assistant professor of Philosophy at Vassar, who died seven years later. She then married Richard Pommer, an architectural historian, in 1968. Nochlin had two daughters: Jessica, with Philip Nochlin, and Daisy, with Richard Pommer, who was depicted with Nochlin by the artist Alice Neel in 1973.
Linda Nochlin died at age 86 on October 29, 2017.
Nochlin's published writings encompass 156 works in 280 publications in 12 languages and 20,393 library holdings.