Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Carol Duncan

Carol Duncan

Carol Duncan is a Marxist-feminist scholar known as a pioneer of ‘new art history’, a social-political approach to art, who is recognized for her work in the field of Museum Studies, particularly her inquiries into the role that museums play in defining cultural identity.[1][2]

Carol Duncan
Born1936 (age 8586)
Chicago, Illinois
Known forFeminist Art History
MovementFeminism, Marxist feminism


Carol Duncan earned a BA from University of Chicago, a MA from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.[3]


Carol Duncan served as a faculty member in the Ramapo College School of Contemporary Arts from 1972 until she retired in 2005. She is Professor Emerita at Ramapo College.[3]


Duncan's work examines the critical role that museums play in defining cultural identity.[4]

In the 1970s Duncan and fellow feminist art historians, Linda Nochlin and Lise Vogel, first questioned formerly hallowed principals such as the idea of quality in art, the canon of great artists and art and artistic genius.[5]

In her 1973 essay “Virility and Domination in Early Twentieth-Century Vanguard Painting" it is proposed a study of modernist male painters and the women they painted. Duncan questions the freedom of the models portrayed, examining closely their body language and insertion in the artist’s world (frequently, his studio). By providing plenty of examples of paintings of women’s’ bodies brutally depicted she is able to justify her criticism of the supposed “originality” of the modernist nude.[6]

Her 1975 essay titled "When Greatness is a Box of Wheaties" is considered a key text of feminist art history, articulating the feminist critique of genius in art.[7]

Duncan's well known 1989 essay "The MoMA's Hot Mamas" explores the social implications of representations of women in paintings[8] arguing that two renowned paintings of women by men in the Museum of Modern Art, de Kooning's Woman I and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, emphasize the 'monstrosity' of the female, creating a gender based cultural division that parallels the division of pornography, in which the woman is made into a vision/object by the male creator. She can only view a version of woman that is defined by the male creator, but is denied the role of creator and thus denied entry to "the central arena of high culture".[9]

Books and essay contributions

Carol Duncan is the author of many books and essays, including the following.


  • A Matter of Class: John Cotton Dana, Progressive Reform, and the Newark Museum (Periscope Pub., 2009)[10]
  • Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (Routledge, 1999)[11]
  • The Aesthetics of Power: Essays in the Critical Art History (Cambridge University Press, 1993)[7][12]
  • The pursuit of pleasure : the rococo revival in French romantic art (Garland Pub., 1976)[13]


  • "The MoMA's Hot Mamas", Art Journal Vol.48, No.2 (1989): 171-178.[14]
  • "Virility and Domination in Early Twentieth-Century Vanguard Painting" (1973).[15]
  • "Happy Mothers and Other New Ideas in French Art", The Art Bulletin Vol.55, No.4 (1973): 570-583.[16]


The Carol Duncan Scholarship, is a scholarship endowment created by Duncan to benefit students of the Visual Arts.[3]


  1. Olander, William (1986). "Out of the Boudoir and Into the Streets". The New York Times. No. March 9. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  2. Pachmanová, M., ed. (May 2006). "Mobile Fidelities" (PDF). N.paradoxa (19): 123–135. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  3. "Duncan, Carol Scholarship". Duncan, Carol Scholarship. Ramapo College Of New Jersey. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  4. Farber, Dr. Allen. "How museums shape meaning". Khan Academy. Khan Academy. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  5. Broude, Norma; Garrard, Mary D., eds. (1992). The expanding discourse : feminism and art history. New York: IconEditions. pp. 2, 12, 127, 305, 363, 365. ISBN 0064303918.
  6. Duncan, Carol. “Virility and Domination in Early Twentieth-Century Vanguard Painting.” Essay. In Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, edited by Norma Broude and Mary D Garard (New York, NY: Icon, 1982), pp. 293–313.
  7. Deepwell, Katy (September 2010). "n.paradoxa's 12 Step Guide to Feminist Art, Art History and Criticism" (PDF). N.paradoxa (12): 6, 8. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  8. Robinson, Hilary, ed. (2015). Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968 - 2014. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 131, 165–9. ISBN 978-1118360606.
  9. Jones, Amelia; Stephenson, Andres, eds. (2005). Performing the Body/Performing the Text. Google Books: Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 1134655932. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  10. Duncan, Carol (2009). A Matter of Class: John Cotton Dana, Progressive Reform, and the Newark Museum. Periscope. ISBN 978-1934772911. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  11. Platt, Susan (Autumn 1996). "Review: Culture and Power". Art Journal. 55 (3): 95–99. doi:10.2307/777774. JSTOR 777774.
  12. Harris, Johnathan (October 1994). "Book Review: The Aesthetics of Power: Essays in Critical Art History". The British Journal of Aesthetics. 34 (4): 441. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  13. Ziff, Norman D. (1978). "Carol Duncan, "The Pursuit of Pleasure: The Rococo Revival in French Romantic Art" (Book Review)". The Art Bulletin. 60 (2): 375.
  14. Duncan, Carol (1989). "The MoMA's Hot Mamas". Art Journal. 48 (2): 171–178. doi:10.1080/00043249.1989.10792606. JSTOR 776968.
  15. Duncan, Carol. "Virility and Domination in Early Twentieth-Century Vanguard Painting." Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany. By Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. 293-313
  16. Duncan, Carol (December 1973). "Happy Mothers and Other New Ideas in French Art". The Art Bulletin. 55 (4): 570–583. doi:10.1080/00043079.1973.10790749. JSTOR 3049164.
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