Women were professionally active in the academic discipline of art history already in the nineteenth century and participated in the important shift early in the century that began involving an "emphatically corporeal visual subject", with Vernon Lee as a notable example. It is argued that in the twentieth century women art historians (and curators), by choosing to study women artists, "dramatically" "increased their visibility". In fact, women art historians are one of two groups (besides authors of high-school texbooks) "who say there have been great women artists" in the first place, according to the authors of a study of the representations of women artists in US textbooks.
Education and employment
In the United States professional, academic employment for women art historians was, by the early 1970s, not commensurate with the number of female PhDs in art history. Between 1960 and 1969, 30.1% of PhDs were awarded to women but those numbers increased significantly during that period: between 1960 and 1965 it was 27%, but between 1966 and 1967 it had gone up to 43.5%. But in 1970-1971, women art historians in art departments in the US made up 23.1% of instructors, 21.6% of assistant professors, 17.5% of associate professors, and only 11.1% of full professors. Comparison with the numbers for the same years for women in the languages, from a study done by the Modern Language Association, showed that "women in C.A.A. [College Art Association] professions face[d] rather more severe discrimination than women in M.L.A. fields". Similar tendencies were reported for salary and employment in studio teaching ("preliminary statistics...indicate that women artists receive a disproportionately small share of full-time studio jobs") and in museums ("particularly significant was a tendency to hire women with BAs to be secretaries and men with BAs for trainee programs which rapidly advanced them to more challenging positions).
The history of women in the profession also suggests that art education itself has benefited from the increased presence of professional women art historians, since women students sometimes found it necessary to "redo" an education in which only a male point of view had been provided given. Paula Harper, "one of the first art historians to bring a feminist perspective to the study of painting and sculpture", and Moira Roth shared the same experience of a "one-sided training", of feeling left out. Discrimination against "women in college and university art departments and art museums" was, in the early 1970s, the immediate cause for the foundation of the Women's Caucus for Art (see below).
In a statistical study of US employment among art faculties published in 1977, Sandra Packard notes that "in art departments women have been decreasing in number since the 1930's", and that the number of women in art faculties at institutes of higher education "decreas[ed] from 22% in 1963 to a low of 19.5% in 1974", and cites statistics suggesting that "although women are concentrated at the lower ranks in art faculties, they have more Ph.D. degrees than their male colleagues."
The Women's Caucus for Art (WCA), a caucus for woman art historians, artists, and curators was founded at the 1972 meeting of the College Art Association (CAA), but re-established itself as an independent organization in 1974 after the CAA told them they could not use the CAA name anymore. According to Judith Brodsky, the CAA was, at the time, very much a male-dominated organization; she notes, though, in a 1977 article that the Caucus is given space and time at the annual CAA conference and in the CAA's journal, Art Journal. A Lifetime Achievement Award was installed in 1979. The organization's objectives include "providing women with leadership opportunities and professional development" and "expanding networking and exhibition opportunities for women", and to that purpose publishes a newsletter, organizes sessions at conferences, and runs databases for "art and activism". In 2012 the WCA celebrated its 40th anniversary, and published a pamphlet for the annual awards ceremony that also includes a number of historical essays and reflections from the past presidents.
Women art historians and feminist art theory
Feminist scholars have argued that the role of women art historians is connected to the study of women (as artists and as subjects) by art historians. In 1974, Lise Vogel noted that there were few feminist art historians, and that women art historians in general seemed unwilling to ask "the more radical critiques" a feminist scholar should engage in. In a 1998 essay, Corine Schleif argued that women and feminist scholars need to challenge the "Great Master" canon, and that they need to focus less on "style as evidence of authorship", seen as a traditionally masculine way of viewing the history of art, but rather on style as "one of many sites on the production of meaning". The topic of women scholars in art history is thus intricately connected with what scholars have called feminist art theory; Kerry Freedman, for example, claims that "women art historians often interpret art that is about and by women differently than their male colleagues". However, Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher, in Women artists at the millennium (2006), argue that by the 1980s many "women art history scholars" had begun to think of feminism as irrelevant to the discipline.
Notable women art historians
|Maryan Ainsworth||American||14th, 15th and 16th century Northern European painting, particularly in Early Netherlandish painting||Kress-Beinecke Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery in Washington DC. She is also a curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.|
|Svetlana Alpers||American||1936–||Dutch Golden Age Painting||Art historian|
|Amalia Amaki||American||1949–||American art||Artist, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa from 2007 to 2012.|
|Clementina Anstruther-Thomson||Scottish||1857–1921||Experimental aesthetics during the Victorian era||Author, art theorist, art critic|
|Paola Antonelli||Italian||1963||Modern Art, design||Curator|
|Caroline Arscott||English||Victorian art, 19th century art||Art historian|
|Muqadamma Ashrafi||Tajikistani||1936–2013||Medieval arts and painting of Central Asia||Author, researcher|
|Dore Ashton||American||1928–||Modern Art, contemporary Art||Writer, professor, art critic|
|Pamela Askew||American||1925–1997||Domenico Fetti and Caravaggio||Professor|
|Nurhan Atasoy||Turkish||1934||Ottoman art and architecture||Art historian|
|Erna Auerbach||German||1897–1975||Tudor period in England, feminist art||Author|
|Myrtilla Avery||American||1869–1959||Medieval art||Professor, a Monuments men, former chair of Department of Art at Wellesley College and director of the Farnsworth Art Museum from 1930–1937.|
|Barbara Baert||Belgian||1967–||Medieval iconology||Art historian|
|Mieke Bal||Dutch||1946–||Modern Art, Contemporary Art||Cultural theorist, video artist|
|Anna Banti||Italian||1895–1985||Italian Baroque, female artists||Writer, art historian, art critic, translator|
|Luisa Banti||Italian||1894–1978||Etruscan art||Archaeologist, art historian, writer|
|Ruth Barnes||British||1956–||Material culture, South and Southeast Asian Textiles||Art historian, curator|
|Wendy Beckett (aka 'Sister Wendy')||British||1930–||Catholic art||Art historian, Catholic nun|
|Ellen Beer||Swiss||1926–2004||Medieval art||Art historian, professor|
|Lottlisa Behling||German||1909–1989||Medieval art||Art historian, professor|
|Mary Berenson ||American||1864–1945||Italian Renaissance||Art historian, lecturer|
|Laurence Bertrand Dorléac||French||1957||Modern and contemporary||Art historian, professor, curator|
|Margarete Bieber ||German||1879–1978||Theatre, sculpture, and clothing of ancient Rome and Greece||Art historian, professor|
|Gertrud Bing||German||1892–1964||Classical tradition||Director of the Warburg Institute|
|Jean Sutherland Boggs ||Canadian||1922–||Nineteenth-century French art, Degas||Curator, art historian, and first female director of the National Gallery of Canada|
|Alice Boner||Swiss||1889–1981||Indian symbols in art history||Art historian focused on symbols in Indian art, also an artist|
|Evelina Borea||Italian||1931–||Italian art history||Author, curator|
|Norma Broude||American||1941–||Impressionism and feminist art history||Art historian, Author and emerita professor at American University|
|Frances Borzello||British||Feminist art history including; social history of art, female portraiture, and female nudes.||Author, scholar, feminist art critic|
|Adelyn Dohme Breeskin||American||1896–1986||Mary Cassatt||Curator, museum director, and art historian at Baltimore Museum of Art|
|Anita Brookner||English||1936–||Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Jacques-Louis David||Author, Slade professor of fine art at Cambridge University, her early work focused on art history and later work was fiction novels|
|Lillian Browse||British||1906–2005||Augustus John, Edgar Degas, James Dickson Innes||Art dealer, art historian|
|Coosje van Bruggen||Dutch, American||1942–2009||Dutch avant-garde art||Artist, art historian|
|Palma Bucarelli||Italian||1910–1998||avant-garde art||Director of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (GNAM) from 1942 to 1975, art critic|
|Anneliese Bulling||German, American||1900–2004||Sinologist, Chinese art and architecture||Art lecturer, art historian|
|Teresa Gisbert Carbonell||Bolivian||1926–||Andean art history||Art historian|
|Mary Ann Caws||American||1933–||Modern Art, contemporary art||Author, literary critic, art historian|
|Whitney Chadwick||American||1943–||Feminist art critic, contemporary art, modernism, Surrealism, gender and sexuality||Author, Professor Emerita at San Francisco State University|
|Betty Churcher||Australian||1931–2015||Art historian, first female director of the National Gallery of Australia|
|Alessandra Comini||American||1934–||American women artists, Egon Schiele's portraiture||Academic lecturer, writer, a founder of the Women’s Caucus for Art|
|Mildred Constantine||American||1913–2008||Poster Art, graphic design||Art historian and curator at Museum of Modern Art in the 1950s and 1960s|
|Lynne Cooke||Australian||Modern art, contemporary art||Curator|
|Parisa Damandan||Iranian||1967–||20th century Iranian photography||Author, historian|
|Rocio de la Villa||Spanish||1959–||Spanish feminist art, contemporary art||Curator, university professor, president of Spanish Society of Aesthetics and Theory of the Arts, a co-founders of Asociación de Mujeres en las Artes Visuales (MAV)|
|Anne d'Harnoncourt||American||1943–2008||Marcel Duchamp||Curator and director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art|
|Layla S. Diba||American||18th/19th-century and contemporary Persian art and the Qajar period||Iranian-American independent scholar and curator.|
|Elisabeth Dhanens||Belgian||1915–2014||Early Netherlandish painting||Heritage official|
|Leah Dickerman||American||Modern art, Contemporary art||Curator, art historian|
|Emilia Dilke||British||1840–1904||18th-century French art||Author, art historian, feminist and trade unionist.|
|Sharada Dwivedi||Indian||1942–2012||Indian art and architecture history||Author of Indian and Mumbaiart and architecture history books|
|Joan Evans||British||1893–1977||French and English mediaeval art||Art historian|
|Margaret Henderson Floyd||American||1932–1997||Boston architecture including Henry Hobson Richardson, and Longfellow, Alden and Harlow.||Professor of Architectural History at Tufts University.|
|Marian Lopez Fernandez-Cao||Spanish||1964–||Spanish feminist art, contemporary art, and the works of Sonia Delaunay||University professor and researcher, former president of Asociación de Mujeres en las Artes Visuales (MAV)|
|Helen Gardner||American||1878–1946||Author of Art Through the Ages, an art history textbook|
|Mary Garrard||American||1940–||Italian Baroque art and feminist art history||Art historian, Author, emerita professor at American University|
|Antje von Graevenitz||German||1940–||20th and 21st-century art||Art historian, Art critic|
|Paula Harper||American||1930–2012||Feminist art, Camille Pissarro, contemporary art||Art historian, art critic, art lecturer, author|
|Ursula Hoff||German, Australian||1909–2005||Australian art, the works of Rembrandt||Scholar, academic, curator, author, critic, and lecturer. Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (1968–1973); London Adviser of the Felton Bequest (1975–83).|
|Meike Hoffmann||German||1962–||Die Brücke art movement, German art history||Provenance researcher, author|
|Michael Ann Holly||American||Historiography of Art History||Art historian|
|Alice Ming Wai Jim||Canadian||Contemporary Asian art, contemporary Asian Canadian art, remix culture||Professor, art historian, curator|
|Kellie Jones||American||1959–||African-American art and artists||Professor, curator, MacArthur Fellow|
|Amelia Jones||American||1961–||Dada, Feminist art, Performance art, Body art||Art historian, art theorist, curator, author, university professor, art critic|
|Ebba Koch||Austrian||Indian art history, Mughal-era (architecture, gardens, painting, applied arts), and connecting imperial symbolism.||A professor at the Institute of Art History in Vienna, Austria.|
|Charlotte Klonk||German||Modern Art, Contemporary Art, Museology||Art historian|
|Rosalind Krauss||American||1941–||20th-century painting, sculpture and photography||Author, associate editor of Artforum from 1971 to 1974, professor at Columbia University|
|Annette Kuhn||British||1945–||Feminist film theory, visual culture, cultural memory||Author, researcher, historian|
|Lynne Lawner||American||Renaissance||Author, scholar, historian with an emphasis on iconographical themes, the meaning of art, as well as social customs.|
|Annette Lemieux||American||1957–present||Contemporary art||Professor, artist|
|Amelia Sarah Levetus||British, Austrian||1853–1938||Modern art||Author, cultural journalist|
|Samella Lewis||American||1924–||African-American art||Art historian, art critic, and artist (printmaker)|
|Lucy Lippard||American||1937–||Contemporary Art||Art critic, curator|
|Catherine Mason||British||Computer art,digital art||Art historian|
|Jennifer Montagu||British||1931–||Italian Baroque sculpture||Art historian|
|Doula Mouriki||Greek||1934–1991||Byzantinologist, Historian of Art||Professor|
|Claudia Müller-Ebeling||German||1956–||Healing arts, shamanism||Author|
|Laura Mulvey||English||1941–||Feminist film theory||feminist film theorist, professor at Birkbeck, University of London|
|Mika Natif||Israeli||Islamic painting: Central Asia, Iran, India, and the Mediterranean||Art historian|
|Sirarpie Der Nersessian||Armenian||1896–1989||Armenian and Byzantine studies||Art Historian and Museum Director|
|Linda Nochlin||American||1931–2017||Feminist art history||Art historian|
|Lotte Brand Philip||German||1910–1986|
|Griselda Pollock ||English, Canadian||1949–|
|Elizabeth Prettejohn||American||1961–||Victorian Art, Pre-Raphaelites||Art historian, Professor, curator, author|
|Arlene Raven||American||1944–2006||Feminist art movement in the United States||Art historian, art critic, and founder of the Los Angeles Woman's Building|
|Hilla Rebay||German, American||1890–1967||Modern art||Co-founder and first director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, abstract artist, art collector|
|Trina Robbins||American||1938–||History of comics||Artist and writer|
|Bente Scavenius||Danish||1944–||Danish art history||Independent scholar, art critic, and author|
|Johanna Schopenhauer ||German||1766–1838||Artist, author|
|Nada Shabout||American||1962–||Modern Iraqi art||Art historian|
|Kaja Silverman||American||1947–||Film theorist, art historian|
|Alessandra Silvestri-Levy||Brazilian||1900s–||Producer and writer|
|Barbara Maria Stafford||American||1941–||Developments in imaging arts, optical sciences, and performance technologies||Art historian, researcher|
|Kate Steinitz ||German, American||1889–1975||Artist, art historian|
|Kristine Stiles||American||1947–||Art historian, curator|
|Margaret Stokes ||Irish||1832–1900||Antiquarian|
|Marilyn Stokstad ||American||1929–2016||Medieval and Spanish art||Art historian, professor, author|
|Z. S. Strother||American||20th and 21st-century Central and West African art history||Professor of African Art at Columbia University|
|Deborah Swallow||British||1948–||Indian art history||Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art since 2004.|
|Mary Hamilton Swindler ||American||1884–1967||Ancient classical painting||Archeologist, professor|
|Ann Temkin||American||1959–||Curator||American painting and sculpture|
|Dorothy Burr Thompson ||American||1900–2001|
|Erica Tietze-Conrat ||Austrian, American||1883–1958||Contemporary Viennese Art, Renaissance art, the Venetian school||Academic lecturer|
|Marjorie Tipping ||Australian||1917–2009||Historian|
|Jocelyn Toynbee ||English||1897–1985|
|Marcia Tucker ||American||1940–2006|
|Eleanor Tufts||American||1927–1991||American women artists, works by Luis Egidio Meléndez||Academic lecturer, writer|
|Rose Valland||French||1898–1980||Commission for the Recovery of Works of Art (during WWII)|
|Emily Vermeule||American||1928–2001||Ancient Greek art, Mycenaean culture||Classical scholar and archaeologist, professor at Harvard University.|
|Anne Wagner||American||1949–||Modern and contemporary art||Art historian, |
|Renate Wagner-Rieger ||Austrian||1921–1980||Architecture, historicism||Academic lecturer|
|Evelyn Welch||American||1959–||Renaissance and early modern||Art historian, professor|
|Edith Wharton ||American||1862–1937||Architecture||Writer|
|Margaret Whinney ||English||1897–1975||English art history||Academic lecturer|
|Sylvia Williams||American||1936–1996||African art||Curator, museum director|
|Sarah Wilson||English||Pierre Klossowski, Henri Matisse, Post-structuralism||Professor at Courtauld Institute, author|
|Rachel Wischnitzer||German||1885–1989||Jewish art history||architect, art historian|
|Margot Wittkower||German, American||1902–1995||Neo-Palladian Architecture, Italian Renaissance, Baroque||Writer, Interior Design|
|Joanna Woodall||British||Portraiture, Netherlandish Art|
|Mary Woodall||British||1901–1988||Thomas Gainsborough scholar||Museum director, curator|
|Frances Yates ||English||1899–1981||Renaissance|
|Stefania Zahorska||Polish||1890–1961||Polish prosaist|
|Hilde Zaloscer||Austrian||1903–1999||Coptic Art||Art historian, professor at University of Alexandria and Carleton University Ottawa.|
|Marie-Cécile Zinsou||French-Beninese||1982–||Contemporary art in Africa||President of Fondation Zinsou and in 2014 she found the Museum of Contemporary Art in Benin, the first museum of art in the country.|
|Rebecca Zorach||American||1969–||Early modern European, contemporary||Art historian, professor|
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