In 1793 Angelica [Kauffman] returned to Rome where she continued to paint until her death in 1807. Her funeral was held in Rome, and was recorded at the time as the largest to ever pass through the streets. The entire membership of the Royal Academy of England was in attendance and the first four directors of the Academy walked at the four corners of her pall, while two academicians held up two of her paintings which caught and reflected the glimmering candlelight from the hundreds of lighted tapers carried by the aristocracy and the famous of England and Europe. The eulogy for Kauffman echoed through the church: “Hail! Most Excellent Woman and in Peace, Farewell, Mother of all the Arts.”
Her bust was later placed in the Pantheon of Rome. Historians have chosen to remember Angelica Kauffman as a “minor decorative painter.” Her decorative work was indeed “minor,” but only in relationship to her other fine portraits and paintings, and because decorative painting is a field where women have always been allowed to excel. Angelica Kauffman was, indeed, deserving of a greater tribute. Her contemporaries honored her and respected her; it is his-story that has relegated her and her achievement (Snyder-Ott, 79-80).
When I read this passage for the first time during my first year as an art student, I almost cried. How had this information been kept from me for so long? How could Kauffman’s story have affected me had I heard it years ago? For so many years, my knowledge of art and art history has been almost completely male-centered. Now, in an era when women are learning more and more about their roles in the traditionally male version of history, it is time to talk about women and art education.
While researching for this episode, I gravitated mostly toward the book “Women, Art, and Education” by Georgia Collins and Renee Sandell. When I picked up this book at the library, it was a little more beat up than I expected. Its bright pink cover was cracked and bent, some water damage seemed evident, and I think I even spotted some coffee stains. When I checked the publication date, I thought this all made sense – “Women, Art, and Education” was published in 1984. All of a sudden I had a moment of panic. There were so few books on women and art education, and I had trouble even finding this one. Was it simply too old for me to reference?
As I flipped through the crisp, old pages of the book, I realized that though it was from 1984, its content was all too applicable to now. From the lack of female artists noted in art history survey texts (Collins and Sandell 24), to the masculine values typical of historical art critiques (Collins and Sandell 25), it was obvious to me that little has changed since Collins and Sandell published this book. In fact, according to the National Gallery of Women in the Arts, “only 27 women are represented in the current edition of H.W. Janson’s survey, History of Art - up from zero in the 1980s” (“Get the Facts”).
In my mind, this amount of change simply is not enough. Art is still seen as a more “feminine” subject, and marginalized as a result (Collins and Sandell 32). In 2015, the amount of federal funding allotted to education in the arts was 25 million dollars – even lower than it was over 10 years ago in 2002 when it was 30 million (“Funding the Arts”). Less art education, and less education about female artists in particular, also means fewer same-sex role models for women in art (Collins and Sandell 35). Even if women do succeed in completing the intensive years it takes to earn a degree like a Masters of Fine Arts, only a quarter of New York galleries have solo shows featuring women – even though half of graduating MFA’s are women (“Get the Facts”).
In the end, my greatest question concerning women and art education is this: what happens when you fill the gaps? What happens when students are given equal access to information about and works by both male and female artists? A study published in 2003 asked similar questions. In this study, Themina Kader and Erin Tapley, both assistant professors of art education at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, used Surrealist works by males and females in a classroom setting to find out how gender influences student perceptions of art (Kader and Tapley 62). After a slide show presentation and a short discussion, students were encouraged to create their own surrealist works (Kader and Tapley 68). By examining the artwork created by the students in grade levels four through twelve, Kader and Tapley concluded that “students could be just as influenced by the contribution of both genders to the Surrealist movement” (Kader and Tapley 70).
Through this study, it is easy to see that students of art and art history can equally feel the influence of female artists and male artists equally. Now all we have to do is to ensure that students havethe access students have to art by all artists equally, regardless of gender identification.
Collins, Georgia, and Renee Sandell. Women, Art, and Education. Reston, Va: National Art Education Assoc, 1984. Print.
"FUNDING THE ARTS IN EDUCATION PROGRAM AT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION." (n.d.): n. pag. Americans for the Arts. 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.<http://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/pdf/2015/events/arts-advocacy-day/handbook/3.AIE-final.pdf>.
"Get the Facts." National Museum of Women in the Arts. National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2014. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://www.nmwa.org/advocate/get-facts>.
Kader, Themina and Erin Tapley. “Beyond the Real: Comparing and Contrasting Student Art Works Inspired by Men and Women Surrealist Painters.” Women Art Educators V: Conversations Across Time: Remembering, Revisioning, Reconsidering. Ed. Grauer, Kit, Rita L. Irwin, and Enid Zimmerman. Kingston, Ont: Canadian Society for Education through Art, 2003. 62-71. Print.
Snyder-Ott, Joelynn. Women and Creativity. Millbrae, Calif: Les Femmes Pub, 1978. Print.
Garber, Elizabeth. "Implications of Feminist Art Criticism for Art Education." Studies in Art Education 32.1 (1990): 17-26. Web.
"Research." National Art Education Association Women's Caucus. National Art Education Association Women's Caucus, n.d. Web. 30 June 2016. <http://naeawc.net/research.html>.
The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art. New York: Penguin, 1998. Print.