IN A CLASSIC feminist essay, the art historian Linda Nochlin asked 'Why Are There No Great Women Artists?' The answers, she concluded, lay in social institutions rather than the nature of genius: family, class, the sexual division of labour, myths of divine masculine creativity, and women's internalised belie6 about nurturance and self-subordination being feminine attributes. In his twentieth novel, John Updike could be posing the same question, but answering it in much more traditional ways. For Updike, great art is ultimately about male sexuality, commitment, daring and ambition. Women are simply not equipped by nature to create it, and thus must find ways to serve and worship it.
Seek My Face dramatises a single Spring day in Vermont, in 2001, during which the 78-year-old painter Hope McCoy Holloway Chafetz is interviewed by a young New York journalist, Kathryn D'Angelo. Hope is the muse, wife and widow of twentieth-century American art. Her first husband, Zack McCoy, was the real