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Under the SkinFeminist Art and Art Histories from the Middle East and North Africa Today$
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Ceren Özpınar and Mary Kelly

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266748

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266748.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 20 September 2021

Have There Really Been No Great Women Artists?

Have There Really Been No Great Women Artists?

Writing a Feminist Art History of Modern Egypt

Chapter:
(p.11) 1 Have There Really Been No Great Women Artists?
Source:
Under the Skin
Author(s):

Nadine Atallah

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266748.003.0002

This chapter highlights and discusses the historical, ideological and institutional factors which allowed the good integration of women into the Egyptian modern art worlds. The argument draws from Egyptian artist Nazli Madkour’s objection to Linda Nochlin’s famous question ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’, based on the observation that women artists in Egypt benefitted from an early recognition. In an attempt to explain this Egyptian specificity, the chapter defines the rhetoric of authenticity [asala] as a paradigmatic counterpoint to the Western myth of greatness, at a time when Egypt was struggling for decolonisation and moving towards the Nasserist revolution. Serving as a framework for the appreciation of modern art in Egypt, authenticity seems to create a favourable ground for women’s art, while involving differences between male and female artists in the service of the nation. In order to demonstrate how the search for authenticity shaped and framed the work of women artists and its reception, two paintings about and against polygamy painted in the early 1950s by Inji Efflatoun (1925–1989) and Gazbia Sirry (b. 1925) are analysed in their exhibition contexts. This alternate study shows the entanglement of artistic and socio–political issues while acknowledging internal unevenness within Egyptian feminism and its expression in the arts.

Keywords:   Gazbia Sirry, Inji Efflatoun, polygamy (representations of), nationalism (art and), authenticity, Egyptian modernism, Linda Nochlin, Nazli Madkour

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