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Article: "Why is Art by Women artists worth less?"

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 5017 posts

Why is Art by Women artists worth less? From OldMasters.net

Interesting. I have a feeling that societal attitudes about women are the reason all along. More women make art and show and sell it now than back then. I don’t know that there’s near the disparity in prices now for living artists’ work. What do you think?

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8087 posts

The male artists always had women in the background supporting them and allowing them the time to hone skills and develop style…women have had to fit work in between child birth and child rearing often with no support or encouragement…of course I am generalizing here, but I think this has been the case of almost all of them…added to it was the fact that women were never taken seriously anyway..if you were a member of the aristocracy, you dabbled in paint, if you weren’t you had no time or money to paint…men on the other hand had patrons, and in many cases had mothers or wives who made things easy for them..of course there were male painters who struggled alone, (even so being alone was better than having a family to look after), but in general it was almost impossible for women to work in the same way men did…that continues right up to today…

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 5017 posts

So true, Janis. Before birth control, especially, women had very few choices in what they could do in life. They would’ve had to stay single and celibate at the very least, and then society still would not have taken them seriously or supported them like males were. You look at the modern masters and still don’t see as many women, but it was right about the time of birth control being available, that they started to emerge in numbers.

We have come a long way, in most developed countries at least, but we’re still not quite there. And some countries still treat women as badly as we all did hundreds of years ago.

I am happy to say I don’t really think there’s much if anything holding women artists back in my area, today. But next time I go to the Scottsdale Art Walk I may pay more attention to the pricing w/re to gender. it may still be that high end investor type stuff is still male dominated. The more down to earth stuff seems populated by many women though, and I don’t see or hear evidence that women artists here think they’re at a disadvantage. Perhaps they do think so but not that I’ve heard.

Madalena Lobao-Tello Madalena Lobao... 6984 posts



What a great topic!!
I must apologize, because I’ve seen it only today.

Lynda Robinson Lynda Robinson 3148 posts

I agree with what Janis and Cindy have said. I think in the past women were looked down upon and merely expected to support their men in what ever their career entailed. Art for women was viewed as a pastime and certainly not a suitable career. However, from my observations I would say that in Australia during the past 100 years there are many women artists who are equally as well known, and admired, as their male counterparts. Probably during their ‘day’ they were not so well received, and it was certainly not viewed as a suitable career for a woman. We should be very grateful to those early pioneering women artists who struggled to make things easier for subsequent generations.

Currently, in a couple of Art Societies I belong to, women outnumber the men!

Madalena Lobao-Tello Madalena Lobao... 6984 posts

1,100 paintings are hanging in galleries of the Prado Museum but only three have been made ​​by a woman, and the three artworks are painted by Sofonisba Anguissola!!

The data is surprising, but even more so is that until recently there was not a single view of the public (including more than 8,000 paintings that make up the funds of the gallery, there are 45 painted by women) and, above all, that no one seems to notice. “Women are doubly invisible in culture: we are invisible, but also the fact that we are invisible is invisible in turn.’s So naturalized exclusion of women, no one seems to notice her, not even interested” said writer Laura Freixas, president of the Association Classical and Modern, created for gender equality in the field of culture.

Why is Sofonisba Anguissola in the Prado? Why is erased for four centuries? Because her artworks were awarded to Zurbaran, Antonio Moro, Titian, Sanchez Coello, Bronzino, Moroni, El Greco and Van Dyck,…

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 5017 posts

Glad you revived the discussion!

Lynda Robinson Lynda Robinson 3148 posts

That is a shocking statistic regarding the Prado Madalena! I must research what the ratios are in our own National Gallery. I would imagine that men would greatly outnumber women, simply because of the situations which existed in earlier centuries, already covered by Janis and Cindy – i.e. childbirth and attitudes towards women having careers of any description. I know Janet Cumbrae Stewart – 1883-1960 – (my husband’s great aunt) was discouraged by her father from persuing an artisic career, and she had to really fight with him to gain permission to study art. She lead a ‘celibate’ life with no children (although she did have a female partner). She also dropped her first name, signing her work ‘Cumbrae Stewart’ to give the impression that it had been painted by a man. I find that very sad!

Madalena Lobao-Tello Madalena Lobao... 6984 posts

Have been centuries of marginalization.
Art history is full of examples of women artists who stayed in the 2nd level in relation to their husbands artists

This is a very good article

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 5017 posts

It has been that way in almost everything throughout history. Also, I don’t know that the arts was nearly as “liberal” ground in past centuries as it has been since about the 1800s and certainly since the mid 20th century. For whatever reasons, maybe the move away from patrons who were often connected w/the church, or the more readily available art materials, more readily available education…women moved up at about the same time the arts were getting more liberal. Women seem to be well represented in galleries I’ve shown in and/or attend shows to view, here in Phoenix. Art sites too, seem full of women. As are the forums and groups on various sites. As far as them earning less, I am trying to remember to pay attention to prices more, but I don’t think I see disparity in pricing in galleries here, between men and women artists. One territory I’ve yet to compare is the investor art. And, I don’t know enough about art in that world, to make a good assessment.

Madalena Lobao-Tello Madalena Lobao... 6984 posts

I think that there are some important questions that we must do:
Why has not there been, women artist like Michelangelo, Rembrandt or Picasso? Why in the history of Western art, until into the twentieth century, virtually there are no women “innovative” or “successful” in art? Why we do not remind “great” women artists ? Why most women artists lived in the shadow of their husbands, lovers or artists mentors?

Art history is a history dominated by men and in most of the world this situation remains!

BeClo BeClo 9133 posts

In UK we have the Society of Women artists. It was founded when women were not allowed to exhibit with men artists.
In the mid-nineteenth century, women were not considered as serious artists and had great difficulty in obtaining public showings. At the Society’s first exhibition, 149 women showed 358 works, some concealing their true identities for fear of social recrimination. The Society was involved in education for women artists, who were effectively excluded from professional training by the mores of the time.

In 1869 there was a name change to the Society of Lady Artists. In 1899 the present name was adopted, The Society of Women Artists.

I do believe that you have an answer to why we have not got women artists as great as Picasso and the rest! There was a time when women were suppressed. This is why we have had the suffragettes.

Let me tell you my own story :.
A few years ago I had an exhibition in Canterbury in UK. My husband was there with me. While I had people talking to me, I was observing with great amusement a lady who was talking to him. She was looking at him in awe telling him that his paintings were wonderful and what a great artist he was.
He took her to me and told her that I was the artist. Her face fell down, she said a miserable “oh!” and went away!

It shows how men are perceived in the world of Art while us women have still to prove ourselves to some people. I think that I am going to change my name for Bernard :) LOL

Madalena Lobao-Tello Madalena Lobao... 6984 posts


Wow!! You have made an important contribution to this topic.

Thank you very much for sharing with us!

Lynda Robinson Lynda Robinson 3148 posts

I agree wholeheartedly with Mada!!! You have made a fantastic and valuable contribution to this topic Beatrice. Your own experience (in Canterbury) is a real eye-opener! I can hardly believe it!!! I would have thought in such a relatively recent time, attitudes would have changed.

BeClo BeClo 9133 posts

So did I at the time Lynda!
There are still some people who prefer men artists to women artists. I do not know if is sticks with the great names of the past like Monet, Constable etc etc…who were all of them men!

However, I would like to reassure you that there are plenty more who love a work of Art irrelevant if it is done by a man or woman!

Madalena Lobao-Tello Madalena Lobao... 6984 posts


Very well said!!

Madalena Lobao-Tello Madalena Lobao... 6984 posts

It’s interesting to hear other opinions:


“For most of my life I have been trying to understand why it is that women have not played a more active role in art. Why couldn’t women paint as well or better than men? If a few women could paint as well or better than men, why couldn’t more women do it? Historically, women had been excluded from the painting industry because it required several years’ rigorous training, in conditions incompatible with a woman’s more important role within the artist family as mother of the next generation of artists. Women who were trained were usually trained by their fathers, married other artists and then disappeared. A few women survived, especially in portraiture, because aristocratic courts needed portraits of their marriageable daughters and didn’t want to expose them to the dangerous figure of the male artist. If ladies were all taught to take views in watercolour, why were so few of them any good at it? Why did none of them graduate to painting landscape? The traditional explanation as to why women couldn’t draw or paint used to be because they were excluded from the life class – as if drawing the nude were the only way of learning to draw everything and anything else. Anyone can pile some quinces in a dish and paint them from life, and there have been a few great women painters of still life. But why not more?

Eventually I arrived at a theory, which I offer for consideration. It goes like this: women, being generally more rational than men, are aware that life is more important than art. This is simple logic: art is a part of life, therefore art cannot be greater than life. Since the Romantic period and the rise of the concept of artist as Ubermensch, the male artist has been led to believe that, if he is to be a serious artist, he must regard his work as of supreme importance, immutable, unchanging, defying time. Therefore, as Marcel Duchamp never tired of saying, the most important element in a picture is its frame; in a sculpture, its plinth. The frame/plinth is what detaches the work of art from the rest of the world. That separateness is further reinforced by the sacred enclosure that surrounds the work – the art gallery, the museum, where nothing may be touched by mere mortals. The work is therefore defined as non-biodegradable, even as conservators struggle to reverse the ineluctable processes of decay.

As long as the art object was conceived as a monument to itself, women shrank before attempting it. Women who modify their environment every hour of every day, whether they are shaping their child’s damp hair, or twitching a blind, or choosing wallpaper, or dressing themselves with wit and ingenuity, are unexcited by the self-contained, self-regarding work of art. They are not inspired. The adrenaline doesn’t flow. But when art escaped from the frame and descended into the real world, women artists were suddenly in their element. As long as the work was open-ended, as long as life flowed through it, from its conception to its realisation, women could make it as well as anyone. There’s hardly any point now in asking if women have to be naked to make it into the Metropolitan Museum (as the Guerrilla Girls did), because the museum is not where it’s at.

Though it took male artists to bust out of the picture frame, once art was out women were suddenly free to make their own installations and performances. Marina Abramovic´, Silvie Bélanger, Mona Hatoum, Annette Messager, Cornelia Parker are names to conjure with. Annette Messager had her first solo exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris 35 years ago; her work was not seen in England until 1992, when she showed at the Arnolfini in Bristol. Now, 17 years later, she has the Hayward Gallery in London pretty much to herself. Hers is work that insists on fragility, on loss and impending loss, infused with a tenderness that has nothing to do with sentimentality. Open-endedness characterises the work of women in other media, too, from Tacita Dean’s celebrations of real objects, to Shirin Neshat’s enactments of Persianness.

The fact that three of the four artists shortlisted for the Turner prize last year were female is by now hardly worth noticing, and some were even surprised that the lone male beat the three of them. The Bloomberg Commission by Turner nominee Goshka Macuga, whose work most of us found more interesting than Mark Leckey’s, will be showing when the refurbished Whitechapel opens later this week, along with Isa Genzken’s Open Sesame. For the Unilever series of installations in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern has commissioned almost as many women as men, though the space is probably the most intimidating of any in the art world.

Shulamith Firestone once wrote that when women and gay people take over any field of human endeavour, it is a sign that it is finished. There are plenty of dyspeptic critics who see, in the fading away of the picture frame and the spilling of the artwork into real life, the end of art itself. It seems more likely that art is being transformed from an antisocial preoccupation into something more conscious and committed. In a threatened world, the eternal monument looks increasingly pathetic and ridiculous."

Germaine Greer, The Guardian, Monday 30 March 2009

Madalena Lobao-Tello Madalena Lobao... 6984 posts

Women, Art and Gender: A History


Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 5017 posts

Thanks, those are interesting articles!