Occasionally I wonder if there is a bias toward male painters by the art viewing and buying public. The idea seems to occur to me primarily during art shows. Does the public assume that male artists are more serious about their art than women are? Do they assume that men have to support themselves through their art more than women do? There is certainly an abundance of women artists. But are they given the same “respect”? Is their work looked on as seriously as the work produced by men?
It has been said that male dancers have more opportunities than female dancers mainly because of the imbalance in their numbers – that is, many more female than male dancers are available to perform. Is this also a factor in determining how the public values the work of male painters?
Women painters and women artists, in general, have had a difficult time achieving recognition pretty much forever. Why has it been assumed that stone-age cave paintings were created by men? Major art history books would seem to minimize the contributions of female artists by showing a very small percentage of paintings by women.
Only 150 years ago, painting was considered a “pastime” for women artists and if a woman did manage to have her work accepted in an exhibition, that painting was often labeled “By A Lady”, with no recognition given to the artist. Much of the work done by these women has been undervalued, lost, unsigned, or attributed to their male teachers.
While women have been painting for hundreds of years, it is relatively recently that they have had access to the same educational opportunities that men have had. Women were barred from taking part in anatomy lessons, for example, lest their gentle nature be corrupted.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to escape the values of the past. Parents pass values and beliefs on to their children – values that they learned from their parents. While we have broadened our acceptance of so many cultural changes, does the bias toward the artwork created by men still creep, consciously or unconsciously, into the mind of the viewer while he or she forms an opinion about a piece of art?
Other Artists Experience with Bias in the Arts
I read a thoughtful article on the presumed male bias in art by S. Pitcairn on Recognizing and Transcending Gender Biases in Art.