Women Artists at the Woodson

By: Amalia Wojciechowski, assistant director and collections curator on March 8th, 2023

In 1971, art historian Linda Nochlin (1931–2017) published her seminal feminist essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

Two scarlet ibis stand in the middle of a lush green jungle.

Kirsty May Hall, Scarlet Ibis, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 47 x 39, Museum purchase with funds provided by the John and Alice Forester Charitable Trust

In the essay, first published in ARTNews, Nochlin proposed that women artists’ success and recognition within the art history canon was stymied primarily by the lack of institutional access to places like art academies and museums. Her first attempt to remedy the problem took the form of an exhibition, co-curated with Ann Sutherland Harris, entitled Women Artists 1550 – 1950. The exhibition opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976.

A series of abstract shapes on the beach with dark blue water behind them and a bright yellow sun. Bird figurines perch throughout.

Edith Schloss, July 9, 1975, 1975, oil on canvas, 19 13/16 x 25 1/2 in., Museum purchase with funds provided by the Nancy Woodson Spire Foundation

For avid readers of this blog, 1976 may ring a bell. As director Matt Foss recently recounted here on the occasion of the Woodson’s fiftieth birthday, the Museum first opened in September 1976. In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8th, I wanted to explore the serendipitous timing of these two landmark events to share a “by the numbers” story of the Woodson’s lasting support of women artists.

From the Woodson’s flagship annual exhibition Birds in Art, 11 out of 24 of the Museum’s acquisitions in 2022 were by women artists, or about 45 percent. Additional recent acquisitions include works by important women artists such as Leonora Carrington and Edith Schloss. In contrast, between 2008 and 2018, only 11 percent of acquisitions by top U.S. museums were of women artists. Of the Woodson’s nearly 5,750 art objects, 1,186 are by 208 women artists and women make up nearly 21 percent of the total collection. In contrast, across American museums generally, 87 percent of collections are male artists, and only 13 percent are women artists. Finally, just 14 percent of exhibitions on average at U.S. museums are of women artists and their work.

A woman and a child look out across an overcast cityscape.

Yuyi Morales, Dreamers, 2018, © 2018 by Yuyi Morales

A large body of water visible in the background with a branch in the foreground and a few small birds perching on it.

Fidelia Bridges, Birds by the Shore, 1873, watercolor and gouache on paper on illustration board, 21 x 17 x 2, Museum purchase with funds provided by the John and Alice Forester Charitable Trust

With that in mind, we encourage all visitors to stop by two forthcoming 2023 exhibitions here at the Woodson: Fidelia Bridges: The Artful Sketch (April 22 – August 27) and Soñadores: Yuyi Morales (December 2 – February 25, 2024)!

Share This!

Subscribe to our weekly blog. Please enter your email address.