Contest Follow-up: How Many Women are Represented in Janson’s?

Want to see influential work by genre-defining artists like Frida Kahlo? Don’t look in Janson’s!

A few weeks ago, we challenged readers to guess the number of women artists included in the 8th edition of Janson’s Basic History of Western Art. We were inspired by one of our current exhibitions, The Guerrilla Girls Talk Back, which includes bold, graphic works (1985–2005) that the Girls created to confront sexism and racism.

Installation view of The Guerrilla Girls Talk Back

Installation view of The Guerrilla Girls Talk Back

One reader, and our lucky winner, Laura B., guessed that there were forty-seven, as her copy of Janson’s (6th edition) included forty—she optimistically guessed that the number of women artists included in Janson’s would continue to rise over time. However, NMWA’s education staff pored through the text of the 8th edition and discovered that only twenty-seven women were mentioned, and of the twenty-seven, only nineteen had images of their work included. (There were 268 men mentioned!) What was even more shocking was the absence of significant artists such as Frida Kahlo, Louise Nevelson, and Louise Bourgeois.

Congratulations, Laura B., and thanks to everyone who participated. We encourage our readers to visit NMWA and enjoy The Guerrilla Girls Talk Back, on view until October 2!

—Elizabeth Keaney is the assistant educator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

One thought on “Contest Follow-up: How Many Women are Represented in Janson’s?

  1. From Achilles to Zurbaran, my 1969 “revised and enlarged” edition of Janson’s History of Art includes — drum roll, please — NONE! Not even Cassatt. I remember realizing this in college and feeling humiliated. Things have not changed much, I fear. The reviewer of a recent show in my city of nineteenth-century American masterpieces brought out gushing praise for a Sargent portrait but nary a mention of the equally skillful and much more daring Cecilia Beaux hanging right next to it.

Comments are closed.