A Question of Misattribution: Women's Art and Feminist Art History in Contemporary Fiction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

74 Downloads (Pure)


This paper explores three works of fiction —Elizabeth Kostova’s The Swan Thieves(2010), Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World(2014) and Jessie Burton’s The Muse(2016) —all of which attempt to answer the question “why have there been no great women artists?”by exploring the possibility that artworks by women may have been misattributed to their male contemporaries. It is suggested that authors of art-fiction often draw on the work of feminist art historians not only to show how such misattribution might occur, but also how it might be consolidated and perpetuated via the international mechanisms which govern the circulation of art, thus relegat-ing female artists from the status of practitioner to muse. In exploring how the re-ception of an artwork can be influenced by viewers’ perceptions about the artist’s gender, fiction about women’s art also contributes to the debate over whether it is possible to identify a distinctive feminine aesthetic. Whilst suggesting that art-history novels often defer to a traditional hierarchy of art forms, in which oil paintings of mythological subjects carry the greatest pres-tige, this paper argues that art-fiction can also create an alternative narrative of art history which can be used to challenge or at least supplement the mainstream nar-rative in which great artworks are almost exclusively produced by men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-26
JournalCompendium: Journal of Comparative Studies
Issue number1
Early online date28 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2022


  • aesthetics
  • art-fiction
  • Elizabeth Kostova
  • Jessie Burton
  • muse
  • Siri Hustvedt


Dive into the research topics of 'A Question of Misattribution: Women's Art and Feminist Art History in Contemporary Fiction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this