This research works around embedded social patterns shaping the lack of visibility of work by contemporary women artists, for which it helps to narrow the scope.  Gender expectations are socially constructed roles, institutionalized in society in complex ways (Canadian Institutes of Health Research). In the nineteenth century for example strong ideas existed about how a “man” or a “woman” should act (Walkiewicz).

For this research, a more binary gender view is considered because of the binary gender view and women’s exclusion in the seventeenth century still finding its way into the contemporary artistic landscape and unconscious decision patterns of curators and buyers. Personally, I consider gender identity not to be binary and static, but rather a continuum that can change over time.

Throughout the text the word women is used rather than female or feminine because it refers to the whole human person, embracing a more inclusive meaning that emphasizes gender over biological sex (Sturgis).

Art institutions and decision-makers

For my work to act as an instigator of change the main audience is decision-makers in Dutch art institutions, such as gallery representatives, musea or exhibition curators and even art buyers. They can make a difference if aware of their own unconscious biases and cultural patterns in the visibility of women artists as they engage in shaping their artist portfolios, exhibitions, or purchases.

To increase the likelihood of creating an impact I focus on the Netherlands and not for example Western Europe or beyond. Besides that, each country probably has its history and factors shaping social patterns and beliefs.

Visibility and acknowledgement

With visibility I refer to the percentage of women artists being part of the artist portfolio of art institutions, as well as how and where the work of women is exhibited at these institutions compared to where the work of men is shown. The percentage of men and women in an exhibition can for example be fifty-fifty but the work of women is hidden in the back in the dark and that of men displayed at the entrance or most accessible room the visibility is not considered equal.

As Powell shows in her article “Where have all the women gone”, the exclusion of women in art history in general, illustrated with specific Dutch examples such as that of fresco painter Adriana Spilberg, or paper cutting artists Johanna van Koerten the exclusion is structural of nature. Archiving is not neutral as it requires determination of who is important and who is not. This shows the privileged position in decision-making prioritizing men over women and other marginalized groups. As Powell phrases: “Devotion to the patriarchal family model has been carried from the record keeping of the early modern period through to the contemporary digitization of the archives.”

Johanna Koerten  – Roman fresco papercut (Soth)


Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “What is gender? What is sex?”. Canadian Insitutes of Health Research. 08 May 2023.

Sturgis, Isabella et al.. “Stop Using “Female” When You Mean “Woman””. 31 March 2021.“female”%20connotes%20a,emphasizes%20gender%20over%20biological%20sex.

Walkiewicz, Alice., Amy Raffel, “Gender in Nineteenth-Century Art”.  Art History Teaching Center.  Accessed 18 May 2023.

Powell, Catherine. “Where have all the women gone? Challenging structural patriarchy and rethinking feminist art history”. Leiden Arts in Society Blog. 15 October, 2020.

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