Join Professor Griselda Pollock for a masterclass on themes pertaining to her latest book, “Woman in Art: Helen Rosenau’s Little Book of 1944”.

Please note that CVC Masterclasses are open to University of Cambridge students only. Registration information is at the bottom of the event listing.

In 1944, six years before a young, refugee art historian, Ernst Gombrich published a gender-exclusionist, positivist, anti-social survey of art history with no artist-women, (the infamous Story of Art (Phaidon,1950)) and no discussion of class, race or gender, a small book appeared by German Jewish refugee art historian, Helen Rosenau (1900-84) titled Woman in Art.

Rosenau created a model for a history of art centred on gender, class, ethnic, geo-political and cultural difference enacted across social-historical analysis of images. Rosenau’s work drew on a wealth of 19th to early 20th century feminist interventions in the emerging fields of anthropology, psychology, sociology. Rosenau also offered a feminist recasting of Warburg’s image history in his Bilder Atlas and Panofsky’s iconology. How and why was such a book and its author forgotten? What later 20th century feminist thinking must be mobilized to reconnect us to the long tradition of feminist thinking about women and art, women through art, art through a focus on what ‘woman’ signified, namely questions of social relations, class, desire, difference, subjectivity and, indeed, thought?

Griselda Pollock’s book includes a fully colour illustrated reprint of Rosenau’s original, flanked by an intellectual portrait of the scholar and a close reading of her text. She situates the books intellectual framing in the sociology of knowledge (Mannheim) and German feminist sociology. Pollock reveals a vibrant feminist intellectual tradition sustained from the mid-19th and throughout the 20th centuries.

The masterclass will thus challenge the current misapprehension that feminist art history emerged only ca1970. It deepens understanding of the impact of the migration of German art historical models to Britain and the USA post-1933 as a result of flight from Nazi persecution. As a counter text to Gombrich & Janson and co., it will also expose the political-ideological moment when a widely-held and documented general knowledge of women as artists, and interest in gender, were specifically repressed only in the mid-twentieth century.

Reading List (extracts of Pollock’s latest book will be circulated to the group)

– Helen Rosenau, Woman in Art, Chapter 3 ‘Other Forms of Creativity’
– Griselda Pollock, Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time. Space and the Archive (2007), Chapters 1 & 2;
– Griselda Pollock, Part III, Essays 3 and 7 from Woman in Art: Helen Rosenau’s Little Book of 1944 (2023)

Further information

Using the Fitzwilliam, Kettle’s Yard, and the Women’s Art Collection at Murray Edwards College, participants should select 4-6 works/ images as a single page of a Bilder Atlas from these collections that could constitute a mini- study of ‘woman in art’ in the terms of Helen Rosenau’s analysis of art as a representation of the evolution of i) social identities and legal relations, 2)erotic relations, and 3)changing self-representation, the latter registering the impact of modernization, figurative or abstract.


This event is part of the CVC Masterclass series. It is open to University of Cambridge postgraduate students only.

To register for this class, please send an email to with a short statement on the benefits of participation in this masterclass to your studies.