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Nochlin, Linda

    Full Name: Nochlin, Linda

    Other Names:

    • Linda Nochlin

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 30 January 1931

    Date Died: 29 October 2017

    Place Born: Brooklyn, Cattaraugus, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): feminism and Modern (style or period)


    Feminist art historian; Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Nochlin (then Linda Weinberg) was the daughter of Jules Weinberg (d. 1986) and Elka Heller (Weinberg) (d. 1994). After attending Brooklyn Ethical Cultural School, a progressive grammar school in Brooklyn, she graduated from Vassar College in Philosophy (minors in Greek and Art History) in 1951. She received her M.A. in English from Columbia University in 1952. Weinberg married Philip H. Nochlin (1924-1960), an assistant professor of Philosophy at Vassar in 1953; the marriage was cut short by his death in 1960, but she retained his name professionally throughout her career. Her doctorate was completed at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts in 1963 under Robert Goldwater on the topic, The Development and Nature of Realism in the Work of Courbet. She joined her alma mater, Vassar, in 1963 as an art history professor, and was later promoted to Mary Conover Mellon Professor. In 1966 she published Realism and Tradition in Art, 1848-1900 and Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, 1874-1904, both in the Sources and Documents series.

    She received the A. Kingsley Porter Prize for the best article published in the Art Bulletin in 1967, an honor awarded to a scholar under the age of forty, for her article titled Gustave Courbet’s painting Meeting. She married a second time to Richard Pommer, an architectural historian on the faculty at Vassar, in 1968, and launched a show at Vassar, “Realism Now,” featuring contemporary realists artists. In 1969 after a return from a research year in Italy, a colleague handed her a stack of “women’s liberation” journals which Nochlin claims transformed her into an active feminist almost overnight. By the fall, she was delivering one of the first undergraduate art history courses devoted to women, Vassar’s Art 364b, “The Image of Women in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.” In 1971, Nochlin rocketed to international attention with what has become a seminal article in feminist art history, “Why Have There Been no Great Women Artists?” and then a book on Realism. The article became an important session at the College Art Association, “Women as Sex Object,” the following year in San Francisco. Likewise, Realism, published only as a paperback primer on the topic, broke ground as a mainstream text by incorporating criteria of the subject into interpretation of art. Nochlin and the baroque scholar Ann Sutherland Harris were commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to assemble a show devoted to important women artists. Their book accompanying the exhibtion, Women Artists: 1550 to 1950, 1976, became a standard reference for feminist art history. The College Art Association awarded her the Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., Prize for Critical Writing in 1977. In 1980 she was named Distinguished Service Professor at the Graduate School, CUNY, which she held until 1990. A Guggenheim Fellowship was awarded to her for the 1984-1985 year. In 1985 she was a fellow Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N. J. Her 1986 article on a problematic painting of Courbet, a pornographic painting of female pudenda, rehabilitated a work left for many years in storage in the Musee d’Orsay, Paris. A monograph on Gustav Courbet, Courbet Reconsidered was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name in 1988. Her collected essays, Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays was issued in 1988. The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Art and Society came to print in 1989. Nochlin served as a professor of art history and the humanities at Yale University from 1989-92. Her essay on Delacroix and the absence of women was the result of a 1991 lecture given at the Louvre. In 1994 she delivered the Neurath lectures, published in 1995 as The Body in Pieces. The Jew in the Text, co-edited with Tamar Garb appeared in 1995. Representing Women was published in 1999. She delivered the 2004 Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University. Nochlin is one of the important early feminist art historians. Her ironically titled 1971 article, “Why Have There Been no Great Women Artists?” became the clarion around which subsequent feminist artists and art historians–as well as progressive art historians–rallied. Instead of attempting to elevate minor women artists to a status of males artists of the period, the article focused on the “feminist gaze,” and the coded, gender-biased reception major art works, then and today. Eunice Lipton attributed to Nochlin’s book, Realism, “innocently packaged as it was from the beginning as a modest Penguin paperback” as shocking art historians into considering women as subject, changing the methodology of 19th-century scholars. Methodologically, Nochlin employed the theories of the linguist Roman Jakobson (1896-1982) and his dichotomy between realism and romanticism for her studies on the art of those same eras. Elsewhere she has written that the concept of “bricolage” by Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009), the idea of adopting a methodology to fit your topic, appealed to her as well as Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), the sociological work of Jane Gallup (b. 1952), and Julia Kristeva (b. 1941).

    Selected Bibliography

    • [dissertation:] The Development and Nature of Realism in the Work of Courbet. New York University, 1963;
    • [collected essays:] Representing Women. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999;
    • “Gustave Courbet’s Meeting: A Portrait of the Artist as a Wandering Jew.” Art Bulletin 49, no. 3 (September 1967): 209-222;
    • “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Art News 69 (January 1971): 22-39ff.;
    • Realism. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971;
    • and Harris, Ann Sutherland. Women Artists, 1550-1950. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art/New York: Random House, 1976;
    • “Lost and Found: Once More the Fallen Woman.” Art Bulletin 60 (March 1978): 139-153;
    • “Courbet’s ‘L’origine du monde’: The Origin without an Original.” October 37 (Summer 1986): 76-86;
    • and Faunce, Sarah. Courbet Reconsidered. Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn Museum/Yale University Press, 1988;
    • and Garb, Tamar. The Jew in the Text: Modernity and the Construction of Identity. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996.


    • Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 141 mentioned;
    • [transcript] Linda Nochlin. Interviews with Art Historians, 1991-2002. Getty Research Institute, Malibu, CA;
    • Nochlin, Linda. “Memoirs of an Ad Hoc Art Historian.” in Representing Women. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999, pp. 7-33;
    • The Body in Pieces: the Fragment as a Metaphor of Modernity. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995;
    • D’souza, Aruna. “Fragments and Paradoxes: Linda Nochlin’s Theories of Art.” Self and History: A Tribute to Linda Nochlin. London: Thames & Hudson, 2001, pp. 7-16.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Nochlin, Linda." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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