Art Buzz February 8, 2012: Art Historian Linda Nochlin to lecture on the art of industrial England at Vassar

ART & ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY NEWS

ART LECTURE NEWS

Nochlin to return to alma mater

Nochlin to lecture on the art of industrial England

Source: Miscellany News, 2-8-12

asdfCourtesy of collegeart.comArt historian Linda Weinberg Nochlin ’51, pictured above, is this year’s recipient of the Alumnae and Alumni of Vassar College’s Distinguished Achievement Award.

Linda Weinberg Nochlin ’51 may very well be the single most renowned female art historian in academia today. It should come as no surprise, then, that Nochlin is this year’s recipient of the Alumnae and Alumni of Vassar College’s (AAVC) Distinguished Achievement Award. Nochlin will return to Vassar on Feb. 9 to deliver a talk entitled “Gericault’s London: Representing Misery after the Industrial Revolution?” She will receive AAVC’s award the following day.

After graduating from Vassar in 1951 with a degree in philosophy, Nochlin attended Columbia University, where she received her Master of Arts in English, followed by New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, where she wrote a dissertation on Gustave Courbet, a 19th Century French painter who is synonymous with the Realist art movement.

Nochlin received her Ph.D in 1963 and returned to her alma mater that same year, as an assistant professor of art history. Nochlin taught at Vassar between 1952 and 1980, eventually serving as the Mary Conover Mellon Professor of Art History.

Nochlin is currently the Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She has taught at Yale University and at the City University of New York, and has written numerous articles and books, including Representing Women; The Body in Pieces; Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays; and The Politics of Vision.

Despite her expansive list of publications, Nochlin has always remained a dedicated, passionate teacher. Sarah Gibson Blanding Professor of Art Susan Kuretsky ’63 pointed out Nochlin’s abilities as a professor. “Her lectures were characterized by great clarity of thinking, organization, even diction; and extremely subtle, lovely and elegant language. Rarely have I heard anyone translate works of art into words the way she can do,” Kurestky wrote in an emailed statement. “Everyone who heard her learned a lot about how to present material as well as the material itself.”

She is perhaps most well known for her groundbreaking essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” First published in a 1971 issue of ARTnews Magazine, the essay questions why there were no women equivalents for the great men artists like, say, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse or de Kooning.

In discussing her own specialty in art history, Kurestky noted that there are also few women artists in the canon of Dutch 17th-century Baroque art. “Although few women artists were active in the period I teach,” Kurestky wrote, “I include Judith Leyster and Rachel Ruysch—not only because they were women but because they were good and including them adds an important point of view to the material—Linda drew attention here.”

Nochlin argued that the “elitist” structures on which art history is based had systematically excluded women artists, and that social and academic constraints had discouraged women’s pursuit of art-making. The essay dared to challenge both the chauvinistic notions of the male-dominated art world as well as emerging feminist viewpoints. Nochlin was a part of a growing movement of feminist scholarship in academia that newly reassessed the role of women in fields within the visual and performing arts.

For these reasons, Nochlin is often considered to be a founding mother of feminist art history, but her interests cover an impressively wide range. Kuretsky pointed out, “[Her essay] opened up a whole new area and way of thinking about art, but I’ve thought since that although this piece always get mentioned, Linda herself should not be pigeon-holed as a feminist art historian, as her writings range over such a great variety of topics and artists. But no one who reads this article, which came out of a seminar she taught at Vassar, can be unchanged.”

Kurtesky first encountered Nochlin as an undergraduate at Vassar during her experience taking Introduction to Art History. “[Nochlin gave] 105 lectures that were of such power and brilliance that people used to sneak back in to hear her,” Kuretsky wrote, “even after they had already taken the course.”

Like Nochlin, Kuretsky also graduated from Vassar. Kuretsky went to Harvard, and obtained a Master’s and P.h.D in art history. She then returned to her alma mater to teach art history in 1975. Kuretsky at this point became one of the colleagues of Nochlin—the very woman who once taught Kuretsky while she was still an undergraduate student. “Linda was an extremely impressive and inspiring colleague when I came back to teach at Vassar,” Kurestky wrote.

“I remember vividly her dazzling lectures in Art 105, Northern Painting and in 19th- and 20th-Century art.” It was one of the first undergraduate art history courses devoted to the study of women in art.

During Vassar’s sesquicentennial celebration last year, Nochlin sat down with Professor and Chair of Art Molly Nesbit ’74 and spoke about her introduction to the field of art history. “I took 105 partly because everyone said you had to do it, but also because I heard Adolph Katzenellenbogen give a public lecture on Chartres,” Nochlin reflected. “You know: ideas, sensual beauty, architecture, history. It was like a gesamtkunstwerk [a work of art that makes use of several forms]. That was how I looked on art history.”

Nochlin also mentioned in the interview just how lucky she felt to be a student at Vassar, in light of the school’s commitment to women’s education. “I saw that women could be brilliant thinkers and hard-working thinkers and devoted, serious thinkers. And I liked that. I felt at ease, and comfortable,” she said.

Throughout her career, Nochlin has been the recipient of many honors and awards, including Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. Her presence at Vassar will surely resonate with students and faculty alike. “She really is a dazzler!” Kurtesky concluded.

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