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COURSE NAME: "Radical Women: Pioneers in 20th Century Art"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Adrienne Drake
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 8:30 AM 9:45 AM

Specialized courses offered periodically on specific aspects of concern in the field of Art History. Courses are normally research-led topics on an area of current academic concern.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.

“Radical Women: Pioneers in 20th Century Art” focuses on trailblazing women who contributed to the creation and shaping of Western modernism in extraordinary ways. The course places emphasis on women who broke traditional molds and confines, defied gender roles, and both created and participated in some of the most avant-garde artistic and intellectual communities of their time. Through the study of their biographies and achievements, the course also integrates an art historical approach to the trajectories of twentieth century art.

While some of the women to be discussed in the course are already well known, little scholarly attention has been devoted to situating their production within cultural, social and political contexts. Others are remarkably absent from art historical narratives of the period, despite their significant impact on artistic expression. Through a critical framework, the course will subvert the dominant, canonical art history to concentrate on the extraordinary contributions each of these women have made to the field of art, through their experimentation, institution-building, and active, radical engagement in their time.


The course is structured loosely, according to interconnecting "groupings" or categories: artists, curators and museologists, critics and scholars, patrons and collectors, gallerists, all essential, though by no means exhaustive, instigators of the development of modern art, leading to the art of today.




Students will:

Cultivate an understanding of the development, chronology and complexity of material culture in the twentieth century.

- Recognize key women cultural figures and their contributions to the making of modern art.

- Identify, analyze and evaluate significant aspects and themes within different social, political and historical contexts.

- Formulate interpretative arguments and draw out observations on the cultural outlook, norms and histories that influenced the production, creation and reception of artworks.

- Develop skills in the critical analysis of visual culture.



Attendance and participationContribution to class discussions, sharing of ideas, evidence of reading assigned texts.10%
Mid-term examShort answer questions regarding specific historical figures and issues discussed, both in class and in the assigned readings; a short essay that addresses general themes discussed in the first half of the course, which must include specific examples taken from the course material and issues discussed.20%
In-class presentationA 10-minute, research-based presentation on a noteworthy figure in the arts of the 20th century. The choice of subject will not have already been discussed during the course.20%
Final paperA research paper of c. 1500-2000 words on a specific figure, cultural milieu, or body of work of an artist discussed in class. The essay must address precise research questions, and contain complete captions if images are included, in addition to a full bibliography (not included in word-count). 30%
Final examThe format for the final exam will be the same as the midterm. It will be cumulative but weighted with material from the second half of the semester.20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.




 Week 1:

1. Monday, September 4

Introductory lecture and course presentation, scope and requirements


2. Wednesday, September 6

Readdressing the traditional twentieth-century canon of Western art history


Week 2:

1. Monday, September 11

Leonora Carrington and Surrealism


2. Wednesday, September 13

Artists and the visual document

Tina Modotti


Week 3:

1. Monday, September 18

Lucia Moholy


2. Wednesday, September 20

Lee Miller


Week 4:

1. Monday, September 25

Leni Riefenstahl


2. Wednesday, September 27

Women artists and the Harlem Renaissance

Augusta Savage


Week 5:

1. Monday, October 2

Women artists and Black Mountain College

Ruth Asawa


2. Wednesday, October 4

Museum-makers and curatorship

Cornelia Bentley Sage Quinton


Week 6:

1. Monday, October 9

Palma Bucarelli


2. Wednesday, October 11

Anne d'Harnoncourt


Week 7:

1. Monday, October 16

Radical scholarship and criticism
Lucy Lippard


2. Wednesday, October 18

Carla Lonzi

3. Friday, October 20  make-up day for Wednesday, November 1
Midterm review


Week 8:

1.Monday, October 23
Midterm exam


2. Wednesday, October 25
Mavens of Modernism: patronage and the bohemian salon

Pauline Gibling Schindler


Week 9:

1. Monday, October 30

 Peggy Guggenheim


2. Wednesday, November 1  holiday, no class 


Week 10:

1. Monday, November 6

In-class presentations / Forum discussion 


2. Wednesday, November 8

In-class presentations / Forum discussion


Week 11:

1. Monday, November 13
Mavens of Modernism: patronage and the bohemian salon (cont'd)

Margaret Gardiner


2. Wednesday, November 15

Championing the emergent: new gallery practices

Erica Brausen


Week 12:

1. Monday, November 20

Betty Parsons


2. Wednesday, November 22

Virginia Dwan


Week 13:

1. Monday, November 27

Artists, creativity in isolation and domesticity

Georgia O’Keeffe


2. Wednesday, November 29

Agnes Martin


Week 14:

1. Monday, December 4

Andrea Zittel


2. Wednesday, December 6

Final Exam review and final research paper due


Week 15:

Week of December 12-16 Final Exam (date and time TBA)



A complete bibliography for the course will be provided at the start of the semester. For a core (in-progress) selection of bibliographic works see below.


Specific required reading assignments will be communicated weekly, together with further reading and viewing suggestions that will enhance and enrich the students' understanding of the course material.


Altshuler, Bruce. Salon to Biennial. Exhibitions That Made Art HIstory, Volume I : 1863-1959. Phaidon, 2008.

Bey, Sharif. August Savage: Sacrifice, Social Responsibility, and Early African American Art Education. Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research in Art Education v58 n2, 2017.

Celant, Germano. Virginia Dwan and Dwan Gallery. Skira, 2016.

Chadwick, Whitney. Leonora Carrington: Evolution of a Feminist Consciousness. Woman's Art Journal, Spring-Summer, 1986, Vol. 7, No. 1.

Chadwick, Whitney. Women, Art, and Society: World of Art Series: 1. Thames and Hudson, 6th edition 2020.
Chase, Marilyn. Everything She Touched: The Life of Ruth Asawa. Chronicle Books, 2020.

Dawson, Jessica. Virginia Dwan Los Angeles. Archives of American Art Journal, 2007, Vol. 46, No. 3/4, 2007.

Davis, Angela. Women, Race & Class. Random House, 1981.

Drohojowska-Philp, Hunter. Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Giorgia O'Keefe. W W Norton & Co Inc, 2004.

Flores, Tatiana. Strategic Modernists:Women Artists in Post-Revolutionary Mexico. Woman's Art Journal, Fall-Winter, 2008, Vol. 29, No. 2.

Foster, Hal, Krauss, Rosalind, Bois, Yve-Alain, Buchloh, Benjamin H.D. Art Since 1900: Modernism Antimodernism Postmodernism. Thames & Hudson, 2004.
Grad, Bonnie L. Georgia O'Keeffe's Lawrencean Vision. Archives of American Art Journal, 1998, Vol. 38, No. 3/4, pp. 2-19. The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Greer, Germain. The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979.

Harrison, Charles, Paul, Wood. Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Blackwell Pub, 2002.
Haworth-Booth, Mark. On the Art of Lee Miller. Aperture, Spring 2007, No. 186, pp. 50-57. Aperture Foundation, Inc.

Haworth-Booth, Mark. The Art of Lee Miller. V&A Publications, 2009.

Higgie, Jennifer. The Mirror and the Palette: Rebellion, Revolution and Resilience: 500 Years of Women’s Self-Portraits. W&N, 2022.

hooks, bell. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Pluto Press, 1987.

Horne, Victoria, Perry, Lara. Feminism and art history now: radical critiques of theory and practice. I.B. Tauris, 2017.

Kirschke, Amy Helene. Women artists of the Harlem Renaissance. University Press of Mississippi, 2014.

Kraus, Rosalind E. Bachelors. MIT Press, 1999.
Kunny, Clare. Leonora Carrington's Mexican Vision. Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, 1996, Vol. 22, No. 2, Mary Reynolds and the Spirit of Surrealism, 1996.

Laing, Olivia. Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency. W W Norton & Co Inc, 2020.

Lippard, Lucy. A Documentary Herstory of Women Artists in Revolution. Primary Information, 2021.

Lippard, Lucy. From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women's Art. Plume, 1976.
Lippard, Lucy. Six Years: The dematerialization of the art object, University of California Press, 1997.

Lonzi, Carla. Self-portrait. Divided Publishing, 2021 (English translation).

Martin, Agnes. Writings. Hatje Catz, 1998.

Nochlin, Linda. Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists. Art News, 1971.

Obrist, Hans Ulrich. A Brief History of Curating. Jrp Ringier Kunstverlag Ag, 2008.

Plagens, Peter. Sunshine Muse: Art on the West Coast, 1945-1970. University of California Press, new edition 2000.

Prose, Francine. Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern. Yale University Press, 2015.
Rosenblum, Naomi. A World History of Photography. Abbeville Press, 1984.
Souter, Gerry. Georgia O'Keeffe. Parkstone International, 2011.

Wade, Francesca. Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars. Faber & Faber, 2000.

Vail, Karole P. B., Peggy Guggenheim : The Last Dogaressa. Marsilia, 2020.
Villa, Angelica. Photographer Lee Miller's Subversive Career Took Her from Vogue to War-Torn Germany. Art in America, March 19, 2021.
Wells, Liz. Photography: A Critical Introduction. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015 (5th edition).

Wilson, Frances. Burning Man: The Trials of D.H. Lawrence. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2021.
Zox-Weaver, Annalisa. Women modernists and fascism. Cambridge University Press, 2011.