It was 1981 when it was published Ancient teachers. Women, art and ideology, the result of a long feminist investigation carried out by Rozsika Parker Y Griselda Pollock, two key figures in the second hello and with a long journey in the field of art history.

Tired of reading compilation books of women in the history of this discipline, they decided to bet on a work that did not seek to demonstrate that women were great artists or denounce the negligence of Art History towards female artists, but to go a step further and focus on investigating a very curious question: why the twentieth century is the moment of greatest silencing the woman in art.

Your interest in representation of women and the high sexist stereotypes that surrounded them on a personal and professional level led them to reflect, gather information and bring this essay to life. Now, forty years later of that first edition, the Akal publishing house translates it into Spanish to bring this feminist reflection of art to our country, demonstrating that the conclusions collected by these two experts they are more current and important than ever.

Yesterday Today Tomorrow

Even if Parker passed away in 2010, his partner continued to shape this work by completing Ancient teachers. Women, art and ideology (sense) con an updated prologue in which he speaks openly in a direct way about the scarcity of actual advances in art in equality issues. What was a pioneering book is now an indispensable manual for art lovers, helping us understand the past and its reflection in it. present closest.

Cover of the book ‘Ancient teachers. Women, art and ideology ‘, by Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock.

common sense

The authors analyze the practice of women as artists to discover how they managed this peculiar position, and to show that they were capable of creating art despite their circumstances. This essay is interesting not only for its approach, but also for its objective: to escape the limitation of the history of these women in their fight against discrimination and exclusion, to be able to focus on an approach that moves away from the feminist battle and knows the specific ways in which women have made art despite the restrictions of different times, “affected by both gender and class factors.”

As Pollock herself explains, they did not want to make another compilation book of women artists but to offer something different. “The discipline of Art History as a formalized study and museum practice not only ignored or despised women as artists, but consciously built a narrative of art without women. And even more significantly, we realized that it had been the twentieth century when such a thing had been done to a greater degree, “he writes in his 2021 prologue, where he emphasizes the image of the exclusively male artist, Eurocentric-North American, white and straight that still predominates.

The twentieth century

In the late nineteenth century, Victorian art historians “could perfectly record the persistent presence of women in the history of the arts and appreciate their increasing numbers and gradual progress in the face of problems such as social exclusion and lack of recognition “.

But then what happened in the twentieth century? ¿Why the change? This is the great question with which both researchers appeal to the reader. They find several factors that are addressed in the book, but they start from the premise that the consolidation of the bourgeois social system and its ideologies “progressively separated women from both participating in and being recognized by the mainstream of social and cultural production “.

The sculptor Marisol Escobar (1930-2016).

The sculptor Marisol Escobar (1930-2016).


As the authors explain, the artists were treated (and treated) collectively, “just like all women, as homogeneous group by virtue of their shared gender“It is in the twentieth century that artists have to fight the dominance of those bourgeois notions of sexual difference that emerged in the nineteenth century.” Modern art history has not only inherited and perpetuated the Victorian ideology about femininity and the notion of women’s art as something categorically different from men. These positions have taken hold “, they emphasize.

Private life vs. construction site

So much Rozsika Parker What Griselda Pollock consider it important to consider why women associated with other artists have been the most remembered. “Is your art analyzed in depth or is the interest focused on your private life, their sexuality or maybe in tragedy or disease? Are you familiar with Mary Cassatt or Berthe Morisot like Claude Monet or Auguste Renoir? “They write.

Like the study carried out in several art museums, in which several young people were asked to list female artists and many of them could not even name one. “Another strategy for deny women as artists it is to define them only by virtue of biographical details of their lives, as if these facts fully explained their work. Women thus appear limited, unable to rise above the life real to reach the transcendent commitment to art pure characterizing the male genius“writes Pollock.

More than brushstrokes

Language in art history plays an important role in Parker and Pollock’s research and reflections, especially around the terms “art” and “artist”. As they explain, these two concepts consolidate the privilege of masculinity as a synonym of creativity, because “to indicate that an artist is a woman, the neutral term artist must be accompanied by an adjective“.

As they express themselves, it is a paradox that “to reject women, you have to recognize them; they are mentioned to qualify, separate and marginalize them “. An example of this is found in art schools, where a 50% of those enrolled are women, but as they affirm in this essay “they do not access the higher positions of artistic education”.

Artist Helen Frankenthaler at work.

Artist Helen Frankenthaler at work.

common sense

The same occurs in the specialized and generic press at the international level, where artists continue to be reflected with a great stereotypical feminine load and in which reference is made to the woman’s own condition when talking about them.

For this reason, this essay has great relevance on an ongoing basis. With Ancient teachers. Women, art and ideology Pollock and Parker invite us to ask ourselves what would have happened if those women had been recognized over time. Would the artistic movements be the same? Would both the way of creating and of consume art? That is something we will never know.


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