One of my favorite minor masterpieces in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Young Woman Drawing (1801) by French master Jacques-Louis David. Or at least it was long thought to be by David. In the 1950s, experts believed that Constance Marie Charpentier, one of David’s women students, painted the work. Today, Marie-Denise Villers gets credit for the work. When David took credit, critics saw the hand of the master at work. When women entered the picture, suddenly the same painting lacked the qualities experts found previously. Beginning in March’s Women’s History Month, The Delaware Art Museum conducts an experiment in seeing gender in art in the exhibition Battle of the Sexes, in which visitors will vote on whether works were created by a female or male artist. The results may finally answer whether gender stereotypes in art are just another form of identity theft, in this case robbing female artists of the full identity of creator.
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