ABSTRACT

There was a time in the recent past when it might have been thought that women were not very often active as artists, historically, or were unsuccessful in the artworld. However, some three decades’ worth of scholarship on historical women artists now makes such a contention seem nonsensical. Women were active in all areas of cultural production in the past, despite the (sometimes extreme) opposition they faced personally, socially and professionally. In fact, many women artists, over at least the last five centuries in the west, were highly successful and gained notice and patronage from their contemporaries. Yet their historical legacy has not equalled that of their male counterparts, and this is a fact which requires an explanation. Were these noteworthy and successful women really making art of lesser quality than the men of their generation or were the women who made art excluded from the historical practices by which artists were assured a legacy?