My husband Max likes to tell this story: back in the early 1960s when he was a graduate student, he asked Linda how Meyer Schapiro had responded to her dissertation on Courbet. She said, “Oh, he tore it to shreds. I was terribly upset.” Then after a few moments, she added, “But I didn’t let it bother me.” That is Linda Nochlin the fighter, the several-time cancer survivor, the feisty feminist, the brilliant intellectual. But there is also Linda Nochlin the culture vulture, the jock, the party girl, the poet, the nature lover, the loyal friend, the proud grandma.
I sometimes attend early music concerts with Linda. Her knowledge of literature, music, and dance, from classical to the most contemporary, arises from a deep need as well as a lively curiosity. Unlike many academics, she is truly interdisciplinary, seeking the connections that were previously overlooked between social and political history, art forms, and popular culture. Then when she puts them together, they seem completely obvious.
Linda’s fast walking in Riverside Park has been at the center of her daily life. One time, while she was recovering from a surgery in early spring, we took a stroll. We sat on the bench she had dedicated to her late husband Dick (architectural historian Richard Pommer). It faces the river, where they had often stopped to enjoy the view. Next, she wanted to go to a favorite spot under a specific tree, where she said the first crocuses bloomed annually. And there they were, poking their heads up through the ground. The discovery gave her as much pleasure as any artistic epiphany.
The first time I encountered Linda Nochlin, before we met, she was speaking on a panel about feminism and art. Someone challenged her from the audience, suggesting that she would be opening the floodgates to a rush of poor work. She responded that it was a matter of justice: there should be just as much mediocre art visible by women as by men, just as much mediocre architecture by women as by men, etc. It got a laugh, but I have thought about that often—justice, simple and clear.
JOYCE KOZLOFF is an artist. She lives in New York.