The Role of Gender in Art

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Introduction

“’Gender’ is defined here as the cultural construction of femininity and masculinity, as opposed to the biological sex (male or female) which we are born with. Although feminist theory in its various forms does not offer any single explanation of the differences between men and women, most feminists would reject the idea that male and female characteristics can be found exclusively in any fixed biological attributes. Although some feminists are more concerned than others with tracing of masculine and feminine characteristics to their essential biological roots … (essentialists), most feminists from a wide range of positions have contributed to the argument about the relative importance of social, cultural and psychic forces in the construction of identity as either feminine or masculine.”1

This essay will initially address how art history has been discussed by feminist historians in the latter part of the twentieth century. It will then discuss two pairs of mutually contemporary works of art whilst attempting to introduce concepts into the discussion of the works themselves, in order to point to differences or similarities in technique, form and style, and ways to approach an analysis of the work. Finally a conclusion will be drawn on the importance of the role of gender arising from the discourse.

Gender and the role of gender is now a major part of the paradigm of the historiographical study of art. Since the 1970s feminist art historians have challenged the extant tenets of art history and have explored radical approaches to gender in art. It is important to note that art historians have formed a crucial part of the wider debate concerning feminism.

Linda Nochlin`s essay ‘Why Have There Been No Great Wome...

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...erasure from the history. The work is chronological in sequence, which according to Chicago traces the social origins and decline of matriarchy, it`s replacement by patriarchy, the institutionalisation of male oppression and of women`s response to it.

“The Dinner Party is both clumsy and pathbreaking… The Dinner Party is right on time. It comes in the wake of modernism, in loud colours and emotional, high-pitched tone; it rides on the wave of feminist study and insight; it takes seriously both the truths and excesses of female consciousness; it fills a large room; it engaged some 400 (sic) workers in something bigger than anyone; it cannot be ignored and it should not go away.”

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