This three-part documentary series, originally broadcast on the BBC, takes a truly fascinating subject – the challenges facing women artists – and turns it into an atrocity.
The main problem with this production is that it limits itself to a handful of artists within Western Europe between the Renaissance and the early 20th century, with a belated hop over the Atlantic to feast on Georgia O’Keeffe’s works. Hosted by the charmless and grating art historian Amanda Vickery, the production gives the false impression that only a few women were able to create paintings and sculptures of great value, but that the majority of their work is either poorly considered or not accessible for contemporary appreciation.
Well, at least it is barely visible here – Vickery displays some of the works on her iPad and rarely allows the camera to capture a contemplative gaze at the great paintings she discusses. Even worse, Vickery steamrolls her way through key aspects of art history – most egregiously, in limiting the female contribution to the Impressionists’ movement to Berthe Morisot while ignoring Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.
Vickery also seems to be unaware that nonwhite women also created art that achieved international notability: the African-American sculptors Edmonia Lewis and Meta Warrick Fuller, Mexico’s celebrated artist Frida Kahlo, Hopi-Tewa ceramist Nampeyo and Japanese painter Uemura Shoen are conspicuously absent.
This ill-researched mess will leave anyone with a genuine love of art in an advance state of numbness and disbelief.