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2017.0016 [WOMEN ARTISTS]
Date Range of Records: 1950-2014
- Greer, Professor Germaine [29 January 1939-]
The Women Artists series consists of 32 units of publications and research files compiled by Germaine Greer on women artists from antiquity to contemporary practice. Units 1-5 contain a range of exhibition catalogues, publications, loose papers and files of notes, transparencies and resources for the 2002 lecture Violence and the Female Grotesque. These units contain extensive runs of women’s art publications including Make, Women’s Art Magazine, Women Artists Slide Library Journal and The Feminist Art Journal. Units 6-32 contain files for individual artists arranged alphabetically by surname, or first name for Indigenous Australian artists.
The Women Artists series originates from research Greer undertook for The Obstacle Race. Much of the research material for this book is found in the Major Works series 2014.0045 units 1-3. In a c.1997 inventory of the Greer Archive (Major Works, item 2014.0045.00603) Greer states ‘The archive also contains two sub-archives, one on women and painting, and the other on women and literature. The first grew out of research originally undertaken for The Obstacle Race: the Fortunes of Women Painters and their Work, published in 1979, and has been kept up since.’ The Women Artists series can be understood as a companion to the Women and Literature series as an example of Greer’s work to appraise women’s creative heritage and re-insert women into the canon of the creative arts. The note that the series has been ‘kept up since’ is evident in a pair of notebooks used to inventory the collection in 1996 (item 2017.0016.00021). The resulting inventory lists a total of 938 artists excluding drawer A and a small number of other files such as Paula Rego and Paule Vezelay. The final number of research files and cross references at the time of acquisition was 4392. The vast increase in files appears to have occurred between 2010 and 2014. It’s unclear what spurred this period of frenzied activity. It appears that a total reorganisation of the series was undertaken in this period, with files being moved to clear plastic folders with printed titles.
It should be noted that the artists with research files within this series were not selected based on the perceived significance or quality of their oeuvre. This series of records attempts a comprehensive survey of women artists from antiquity to the present day. Some of these are identified only by surname from references found in Neil Jeffares’ Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800 and Clara Erskine Clement’s Women in the Fine Arts (1905). Many files as a result are very sparse, consisting of a single clipping, printout or cross reference to another file or publication. 33 files are completely empty. Those artists that do have substantial files are generally those that are well documented or that Greer has a personal interest in such as Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi and Mary Beale. the other main function of this series aside from collecting reference material for The Obstacle Race and Greer’s subsequent art criticism, is as a roster of names.
Documents in this series from prior to the publication of The Obstacle Race highlight the difficulties and limitations for visual arts researchers prior to cheap high quality image reproduction. Many poor photocopies of artworks sourced from reference books and the Witt Library are found throughout, often pasted on yellow carbon paper with handwritten notes by Greer regarding the image’s provenance and comments on its suitability for inclusion in the Obstacle Race. These documents follow the same format as The Obstacle Race typescript in Major Works (item 2014.0045.00003). It seems likely these pages were proposed illustrations that were rejected during the editing process. Many black and white photographs of paintings are found throughout the series from collections such as the Mauritshuis, the Kröller-Müller Museum, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Museo del Prado. Correspondence relating to the sourcing of these photographs can be found in the file Obstacle Race, 1974 (Early Years, item 20014.0044.00227). These are often pasted on blue cardboard with the artwork’s title and provenance. Occasional sketches of paintings made by Greer with notes on composition are also present in files of high profile artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi and Sofonisba Anguissola.
The bulk of the series consists of more recent material dating from 2000-2014. Many files consist of a printout of text and images cut and pasted from Wikipedia, gallery catalogues, artist websites and auction databases. While most of this material has been gathered from freely available online resources, Greer often interjects with a short comment signed with her initials at the end of these documents. These are frequently comments on the artist’s presence or lack thereof on the art market, or occasionally observations regarding the work. File 2017.0016.03323 POST, Liza May contains a printout of text copied from the artist’s website with the postscript (nonsense-GG).
Clippings from auction catalogues, most frequently Sotheby’s, are spread throughout the series, generally dating from 1988 to the mid-2000s. Clippings from other sources such as gallery catalogues, monographs and art magazines, specifically RA (Royal Academy) Magazine, Tate Etc, Apollo and Artfund Art Quarterly are also found throughout.
Occasionally correspondence, photographs and artworks from contemporary artists are found within research files. These are frequently from artists inviting Greer to attend exhibitions or expressing their admiration for Greer’s work. A small number of files for artists such as Paula Rego, Tacita Dean and Rose Wylie contain correspondence with the artist and printouts of texts by Greer for columns and catalogue essays. Several artworks are also within the series, notably an etching by Paula Rego sent to Greer as a Christmas card and the painting and collage Pretty Dancer by Rose Wylie, purchased in 2010 by Greer during an interview which is recorded in the audio series (Audio Recordings Produced and Received by Greer, item 2014.0040.00177). The file 2017.0016.01201 Tate Catalogue - Tacita Dean 20/11/01 contains a label for the photograph Teignmouth Electron on Cayman Brac, given to Greer as a thank you for her Tate Britain catalogue essay, and the photograph or counterfeit postcard Lorca’s Olive, created for the exhibition everstill/siempretodavía held at the Federico García Lorca House-Museum, Huerta de San Vicente in Granada, Spain 2007-2008. The work was a response to a story that Salvador Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca once met in an olive grove in Cadaqués. When Dean went in search of the grove she found that it had burnt down. She took a photograph of an olive tree and coated the front of the prints in silver emulsion to emulate the appearance of a vintage postcard. During the exhibition Dean arranged for a postcard to be sent every day from the Dali Foundation to the exhibition at the Federico García Lorca House-Museum, where a new postcard would be placed on the dining table. In Greer’s catalogue essay for Dean where she reflects on the nature of women’s art and women’s absence from the canon, she writes “So much art is about art, but there is, there must be an art which is about life, an art which has hardly been able to call attention to itself, an art without monuments.” The Women Artists series is an attempt to find and document such an art.
32 Units (5.44m)
Collection Category: Culture and the Arts, individuals
Access Conditions: Access: Restricted
Finding Aids: Yes listed ONLINE
Online ListingGREER, Professor Germaine - Women Artists 2017~0016
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