Women and art

Measuring equality in the art world.

Female artists vs. male artists

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After more research on the subject female artists vs male artists I’m beginning to realise that it is much more complex then just the media ignoring female artists. Some people argue that women are just not as good artists as men, the art critic Brian Sewell for example was quoted in this article by Andrew Johnson in the Independent online claiming that “there has never been a first-rank woman artist,” which I believe is simplifying the issue. Until quite recently women were seen as second-rank human beings which of course would affect the way people view their art.

Many of the great male artists are not just admired for their art but also for their status and their eccentric ways. The life they lived, and were allowed to lead, helped create the mystery around them and their art. Look at Warhol for example or Picasso, how many women at the time do you think would have the courage to live the way they did? And if they did live that life they would most likely not be looked upon the same way as a man would. This was of course even harder the further back in time we go. As a man you were free, you could travel and see the world but as a woman you often belonged to someone else from a young age.

Women are still in this day and age seen as a bit weird if they don’t want to have children, we feel sorry for them, while a childless man is more seen as a free spirit, a wanderer. These characteristics normally go hand in hand with being an artist so if being that way is not accepted for women of course they will be regarded differently.

Not saying that you can’t be a great artist just because you have children but in a way freedom is very important in the creative process, you have to go deep inside yourself and if your the one who’s supposed to take care of the children, when will you find the time? Living in the time we do now many of us feel that men and women are nearly equal (which can be argued) but it is important to remember that this was not the case for the generation of our grandparents or even our parents.

There must have been many female Monet and Van Gogh who had to give up their dreams to live in their husband’s shadow. It is hard to change history though and evidently there aren’t for example as many female impressionists as male ones hence there won’t be as many paintings by female artists to exhibit.

Mr Sewell takes it has far as saying “Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50 per cent or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.” Why would only men be capable of aesthetic greatness? Do men have an aesthetic greatness gene that women lack? That sounds very unlikely. One could wonder what Mr Sewell’s theory would be on why most great artists are white men.
Women can only have children until they are about 40 so yes perhaps a lot of women feel that they can’t live the life of an artist if they are going to be able to support and take care of a family. Men can live a vagabond life until they are 60 if they want and then decide to settle down and have a family. That is many more years of freedom. So if you are woman who hasn’t “made it” by the age of 30 perhaps you will chose another career path.

Still I feel like it would be simplyfing the matter if we only blamed it on having children. But that, together with how society expects a woman to be and act contributes to how we look at female artists and their art. Male artists seem to be allowed to more freely express their eccentricity which affects the way we see them and their art.
The art world reflects society and society is not yet equal. The reality is that men are more respected in most areas in life, something that will hopefully change with time. Have a look here to get an idea of how female artists are represented by the art world.
There are obviously many great female artists out there and my aim with this blog will now be to write about them.

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Written by womenandart

November 5, 2009 at 3:22 pm

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