“Women don’t paint very well.”

This quote was made by the artist Georg Baselitz in an interview with Der Spiegel in January 2013. The full article can be found here:


Georg Baselitz is a German postmodern artist who works as a painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor. His career exploded in the 1960s after his painting “Die große Nacht im Eimer“(The Big Night Down The Drain) was seized by the public prosecutor’s office for being immoral because of its provocative, offending sexual nature.


Die große Nacht im Eimer” by Georg Baselitz

He is currently a professor at Hochschule der Künste art academy in Berlin.

I first came across this interview in a post on YouTube presented by the Southbank Centre as part of their Women of the World Festival. Every year the Southbank Centre puts on this festival of talks and lectures to highlight the issues affecting women around the world and each one is recorded and subsequently put online for public viewing.

This lecture was called “Women don’t paint very well – It’s a Fact”. Well I didn’t take very well to this statement at all. It was especially poignant as I am currently reading Whitney Chadwick’s “Women, Art and Society” (Thames and Hudson,  2012) a book all about the overlooked great female artists in history, dating back to Marietta Robusti, Tintoretto’s daughter and had just read an article in the National Geographic that claims a new study discovered that most paleolithic cave art, previously thought to have been made by men, were actually produced by women.

Handprints in ancient cave art most often belonged to women, overturning the dogma that the earliest artists were all men.
Handprints in ancient cave art most often belonged to women, overturning the dogma that the earliest artists were all men.

Considering this, my indignation regarding this title was understandable, I simply had to watch it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did

Sally Tallant, Director of Liverpool Biennial, Marin Alsop, one of the world’s leading female conductors and artist Alexis Teplin, investigate Baselitz’s statement :

I hope you found that enlightening. I wish to some degree that they had challenged the statement in question more and had brought up the reasons why it is still a commonly held view that women can’t paint, despite all evidence to the contrary. Other points they could have expanded upon would have been the language of the Art world, the lack of expertise on historical female artists in the educational system, the belief that artworks can be defined by their femininity and masculinity when these are completely arbitrary man-made constructs. However, considering the time limit and the range of the subject, I was very impressed by the panel. Many of Marin Alsop’s opinions in particular rang true, especially about the lack of successfully mediocre female artists, as greatness only exists in its relativity to mediocrity.

Indeed, in relation to Baselitz’s statement, Griselda Pollock, co-author of another great book on women and art “Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology”, said: “Only few men paint brilliantly and it’s not their masculinity that makes them brilliant. It’s their individuality…Baselitz says women don’t paint very well, with a few exceptions. Men don’t paint very well either, with a few exceptions.” She goes on saying that although many factors contribute to holding back female painters, the main one is the “myth of the painter. The image in the West of a lonely, tortured white man. I could run rings around you with great women artists but there isn’t space in the cultural imagination.”

That great female painters exist and have always existed is irrefutable but much more needs to be done to change the prevailing perception, particularly in an industry that deals with subjectivity, that female artists are not on par with their male counterparts.

These talks and many more are available to be viewed on the Southbank centre YouTube website:


And the next Women of the World Festival will be held at the Southbank centre from Friday 7 March 2014 – Sunday 9 March 2014. You can obtain day or weekend passes from their website









2 thoughts on ““Women don’t paint very well.”

  1. Thank you for this engaging post and for sharing the info and the video. A very important point you are making. I found this topic especially relevant to me, not only because I’m a female artists but also because it’s in line with a film idea I have had for some time now about oppression of women in different cultures. Maybe I could use your help on this? In the meantime, I’m looking forward to new posts from you. This blog has a chance of becoming a hit. Well done, P.!

    • Thank you Mally, that is so very kind of you to say. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Unfortunately women still encounter a lot of sexism, so much that it has become normalised and not even seen as a big deal because all women go through it. I wish that was an exaggeration but this is a unique phenomenon because without a doubt it is a universal female experience (http://everydaysexism.com/).

      That aside, I would love to help on your film in any way I can, I’m at your disposal. And for anyone reading this who loves films with an intellectual edge, I would advise them to visit http://mallywinifilms.com/ and see the works and posts of an inspiring filmmaker.

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