Back at Vassar in the late 1970s, the vivacious, brilliant-yet-accessible professor was known as Mrs. Pommer, and her 200 and 300 level courses in 19th-century painting always filled up quickly. But to the wider world, she was known as Linda Nochlin, a trailblazing feminist art historian revered or reviled for her landmark 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” which demonstrated how, for centuries, institutional and societal structures had made it “impossible for women to achieve artistic excellence, or success, on the same footing as men, no matter what the potency of their so-called talent, or genius.”
Nochlin also challenged how “greatness” itself had long been defined. “In the field of art history, the white Western male viewpoint, unconsciously accepted as the viewpoint of the art historian, may—and does—prove to be inadequate not merely on moral and ethical grounds, or because it is elitist, but on purely intellectual ones,” she wrote in the essay, which was published in ARTnews.
Nochlin, who died on October 29, 2017, was a Brooklyn girl, born Linda Weinberg on January 30, 1931.