The Obstacle Race by Germaine Greer - review by Helen Langdon

Helen Langdon

But is it Art?

The Obstacle Race


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Ms Greer’s book falls into two halves; ‘The Obstacles and How They Ran’ and is at once a sociological inquiry into the dilemma of women artists (a logical extension of The Female Eunuch), and an attempt to establish what women artists, as a group, actually did; she aims to include, at least for the early centuries ‘every single woman about whom anything could be found.’ She does not wish to make extravagant claims for the greatness of women’s art; her passionate search through the early sources, archives and reserve collections of many museums and galleries has rather been inspired by a belief that this will teach us more about the nature of masculine oppression; that we must endeavour to learn to read with understanding the struggle and conflict evident in women’s work.

For the woman artist the obstacles are both internal and external. Before 1700 women, who did not enter any of the professions, were quite simply denied any formal training. Those who did become painters were invariably the relatives of male artists. Yet these were precisely the women most susceptible to internal difficulties; they were likely to make a filial and submissive response to fathers and brothers and to express

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