Moreoften than not, women artists have not received the same amount of attentionand recognition from the art world establishment as have their malecounterparts, and the ideology of patriarchy seems to have played a significantrole in this. Throughouthistory, men have been viewed as the superior gender. In the art world,painters like Rothko, Picasso and a plethora of other male artists arerecognised as geniuses. Women artists such as Angelica Kauffmann, Agnes Martin,and Lee Krasner while acknowledged as major but underestimated figures in thehistory of Western painting, do not gain the accolade of ‘genius’. An argumentthat is supported by Germaine Greer in her book The Obstacle Race, The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work (1981),as it examines reasons why women artists have been overlooked or excludedentirely by the art world establishment. For us to fully appreciate the impactthese women ought to have had on the art story we need to understand howhistory has, viewed not only women in society, but specifically viewed womenwithin the art world. That art story should form the fundamental part of theeducation of our children, but by excluding women artists from it, we excludethem from society.
Historically, art history, as an institution was dominatedand controlled by a male viewpoint, and women were brought up to accept thattheir place and duty in society was as a homemaker. This relegated womenartists to hobbyists, or crafters, rather than true practioners, and thequestion is to what extent does this situation still exist today?Theideology of patriarchy, existed long before it was ever examined bysociologists, and was accepted as a natural way of living. It is defined in The Chambers Dictionary as “Patriarchynoun (patriarchies) 1 a social system in which a male is head of the family anddescent is traced through the male line.
2 a society based on this system” (The Chambers dictionary, 2014). Patriarchyis viewed as a process that institutionalises and legitimises male domination overwomen in society. The concept has been used within the women’s movement andFeminist Art Criticism to analyse the principles underlying women’s oppression.Patriarchy has a history within feminist thought, having been used by earlyfeminists like Virginia Woolf, in the search for an explanation of feelings ofoppression and to address the question of the real basis for the subordinationof women, using it to analyse the particular forms which it assumes and toformulate some coherent theory.
Throughouthistory, women have been ascribed small roles. Males were dominant because theywere warriors and hunters, females were home makers and bore children. Forcenturies, and in most societies, males have been regarded as superior tofemales, which solidified the unfair treatment of women. This was especiallyprominent in religion (Christianity) which was, and could still be argued is,the fundamental backbone of western society and its values and morals. Thisdissertation seeks to examine how the patriarchal structure within westernsociety has affected women’s status in the art world, and how this feeds intothe neglect of women artists in the school curriculum, in a cyclicalrelationship. In-order to comprehend how patriarchy has impacted on womenartists chapter one will analyse and seek to understand the social andhistorical themes of patriarchy in England and how women have been viewedhistorically in western society. For the purposes of this discussion, it isuseful to merge the definitions of patriarchy as follows:”patriarchyis characterised by relations of power and authority of males over females,which are learned through gender socialisation within the family, where maleswield power, and is legitimised through deeply ingrained, pervasive ideologiesof inherent male superiority, institutionalised on many social levels; legal,political, economic, educational” (Longman, 1993). Chaptertwo explores feminist politics and debates on the subject of patriarchy andmale dominance within art history.
The different conceptions of patriarchywithin contemporary feminist theory correspond to some extent to differentpolitical tendencies within feminist politics. The concept of patriarchy withinthe art world which has been developed within feminist writings is not a singleor simple concept but has a variety of different meanings and this chapter usesthe most appropriate theories to inform and offer contextualisation on thesubject of male dominance within art history and to offer perspective to theconcerns and questions raised in the third chapter. Thethird chapter looks why art teachers support the marginalisation of womenartist within the English school curriculum by choosing to focus predominantlyof male artists, with patriarchy as a concept being central to this decision.