In the eponymous survey led by Czech art historian Věra Jirousová in 1993, focused on the positions of female artists in the region, one of the authors stated that there was nothing like “women’s art.” The question of women’s art was (and still is) at stake: Does it really exist? Is it different from men’s art (i.e. art as such)? A common and very general characteristic of women’s works is that they are concerned about specific female experiences in the world. They are not necessarily feminist works. The artist works often with her own corporeality, analyses stereotyped roles and female features, or it can be art mapping the artist’s gender-conditioned subjectivity. Before the Second World War, the situation of women artists in Czechoslovakia was difficult. But after the war, following the forced emancipation of
women during wartime and the socialist ideology of equality and participation in the “new society,” a very strong generation of female artists arose. Most of them were part of newly established art collectives, which were very democratic and bound by friendships and relationships. Here, a very interesting phenomenon can be spotted: a high number of artist couples. Women were respected as partners and mostly did not feel any discrimination. Instead of
fighting against social inequality, they were all rather fighting for freedom during the tough normalization era. The conference paper will examine the term “women’s art” and its connotations in the Czechoslovak art scene during socialism. Focusing on the artistic and social milieu of that time, it will try to find out why there were such negative
feelings about feminist ideas among female artists of the region, and how the artists perceived their positions and opportunities. Comparing the work of important artists (such as Běla Kolářová, Adriena Šimotová, Eva Kmentová, Naďa Plíšková and Zorka Ságlová), it will show significant features of their approach and artistic methods, questioning whether there are any similarities or common features that can be interpreted in the context of specific female experience.
Kateřina Štroblová is a senior lecturer in the Department of Theory and History of Fine Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Ostrava (Czechia). In her research, she focuses on the contemporary art practice of Central Europe. She is also an independent art space curator and art reviewer.