David Galenson gets out his measuring stick:
A survey of the illustrations of the work of women artists contained in
textbooks of art history reveals that art historians judge Cindy
Sherman to be the greatest woman artist of the twentieth century,
followed in order by Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, and
We need to distinguish between fame in books and fame in the art world, not to mention fame with the general public. Textbooks pass through a "least common denominator" filter, which includes the need to appear balanced and representative. Cindy Sherman is unique and memorable, and her work reproduces well on the printed page. Frida Kahlo was of course Latina. O’Keeffe, Hesse, and Susan Rothenberg are better candidates for the top slots., with the German Hesse as my personal favorite I’m also a fan of Rachel Whiteread, Agnes Martin, and Kiki Smith (this one too). Quiltmakers, as a category, deserve top recognition, although there is no dominant name linked to the field. If we are talking about the general public, Grandma Moses (overrated), Yoko Ono, O’Keeffe and Kahlo all do well.
Perhaps the more important observation is that women have done best in the arts (and, for that matter, in economics) precisely when we left the era of "The Great Artist."