Paper about Art and Feminism, 1974, page 1

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          by Linda Nochlin

Professor of Art History, Vassar College.

The question I shall deal with is: “How can
feminism in the arts implement cultural
change: defining aims and developing a
philosophy to deal with the outer and the
inner realities of women. The goal is to
resolve a conflict between ingrained atti-
tudes and new possibilities and develop a
plan for translating philosophy and aims
into practical reality in cultural institutions."
This is a rather large order. The best way
of approaching it is a way that I've learned
from the woman's movement-that is, in
terms of my own personal experience.

Since I am an art historian and since art
history, and art, are cultural institutions, I
should like to tell you something about the
way feminism has led me to question and
reformulate my own position in relation to
the arts and to history itself. Feminism has
been an enormous intellectual, spiritual, and
practical breakthrough in my life as a
human being and as a scholar. Since, how-
ever, I don’t distinguish between the self and
society and don’t see them as opposites-

I see them, rather, as totally interconnected
—in talking about myself, l'm talking about
a social issue. Unlike many of the other
people here, I don’t see a basic conflict
between the individual and the social group.
The self seems to me a piece of the social
group that happens to be enclosed in a

certain boundary of skin and bone and has
incorporated a great many values and ideals
of the larger society. Even the feelings that
one thinks of as being most personal are
ultimately gotten from somewhere. And
what is that somewhere? I don't think it’s
nature in the raw. it’s the particular histori-
cal, social and cultural situations that one is
born into. And in turn, the individual or the
self is constantly acting upon and modifying
and changing the social group so that self
and society or individual and institution are
not hard and fast opposing entities but really
a kind of process in a constant state of
mediation and transaction. Therefore when
l talk of my personal experience, l'm not
opposing it to the nature of history, to the
nature of an intellectual discipline. I see
them as part of the same sort of structure
and, therefore, I think any one individua|’s
life and experience can be a paradigm for
the whole, can stand as an example of the
whole. It's not my little personal life as
opposed to every one out there or even to
this country or to this historical moment
that l'm really talking about.

How in effect does feminism have an influ-
ence on the way I look at art history? Or, to
make the issue even stronger, how does the
notion of feminism transform for me the
institution of art, the nature of art, and the