Exactly how many pieces of art are in the Louvre is not clear. At the most extreme is the assertion that there are 300,000 paintings and a minimum of 5,000 and the total pieces of art ranging from 35,000 to the previously noted 300,000. In any event, there is no greater collection of paintings of women, essentially Frenchwomen, in the world, especially by Frenchmen. This is what lends the museum more color, grace and impact making it Europe’s and possibly the world’s greatest museum. Clearly, this is a gendered gaze since museums have traditionally bypassed and short-shifted the work of women, consigning it to the category of “crafts” and keeping fine art as a male preserve.
The art world’s long history of chauvinism, of which France was an integral piece, seems to reinforce the notion that art has always been ideological, always in the service of narrow minded nationalism by a laying of claim to the Greco-Roman tradition and transforming it into commodity based bourgeois values. Still, within the context of the times, there were always exceptions, art that partly emancipated itself from the jaws of the taste makers, avoiding the high kitsch that defined Salon art and continues to be filtered down today through outright hacks like Damien Hirst and that ilk, reproducing as best they can the same equally hack and generic philosophies of a Bertrand Russell or Sartre.
So, though the Louvre’s art of women by men is limited in comprehension and plagued by a level of disavowal. But, for its time, the better work flowed over the dikes erected by religious reactionism, repression as piety, militarist thinking, apologist art critics, and bleached out intellectuals shilling for whoever would drop their pants for them; all in all, a necessary washing away of discredited social forms dying a slow death from asphyxiation.Despite their deep flaws, noticeably racism and misogyny, in that act of creation, a Degas summoned up psychological insight, a Renoir exposed a light in sheer atmosphere, and a Fragonard represented a heretofore unseen playful exuberance.
The following quote seems a bit provocative, even feminist demagoguery. And also not true. However, the implication that fine art is a male patriarchy repository of values, often coated in layers of misogyny masquerading as liberty and freedom is a valid one:
The radical vision of curator Camille Morineau is better understood when you consider that the Louvre, the most visited museum in the world and home to 35000 artworks, does not own a piece by a female artist. In London, just 12 per cent of the Tate Modern’s collection is by female artists, and of the National Gallery’s 2300 artworks, four paintings are by two female artists.* In an interview with The Guardian – where I found these shocking statistics – Morineau explains that 40 per cent of the Pompidou Centre’s works by female artists were acquired in the last four years. Now, the museum holds 500 pieces by women artists. Read More:http://thedawnchorus.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/ellescentrepompidou-women-in-modern-art/