There's an old war story that haunts us, even though guns were never fired. You can see the hostilities in a recent movie, “The Wife,” in a recent BookThe Memory Factory.” The specters throughout are the men of the world who've kept women down in art and literature; and while the battle of the sexes has taken a lot of prisoners, the story of women lost in the fight continues to spook us. So, how many female cartoonists can you name?

Emancipation proclamation of a second kind

Consider The City of Women, an exhibit that opened on January 25 at the Belvedere Museum, featuring 50 female artists you probably don't know. This, even though these women were barred from studying at art schools. As exhibit curator, Sabine Fellner told The Art Newspaper “They achieved a level of emancipation which has been completely forgotten.”

Why? Fault post-war art historians who chose to focus on male artists said the curator.

And, according to The Art Newspaper, these women would have stayed out of art history if it hadn't been for the publication of books like the “The Memory Factory; The Forgotten Women Artists of Viena.” It's also important to stare down sexism in the art world.

War of nerves

Of course, these women in Vienna weren't the only artists who sank into obscurity as if they had no hand in making art history.

I'm thinking of Dora Maar, one of Picasso's loves. She was a photographer who not only filmed the process of painting the celebrated anti-war mural Guernica but who also participated in painting it.

Left out of history, Maar ended up sickened with a nervous breakdown. Only his fifth liaison, the painter Francoise Gilot, came out of the relationship with her mind and heart intact to continue making her art.

The tell-all book about their life together - “The Woman Who Says No: Francois Gilot on her Life with and without Picasso” - makes the female complaint clear.

For one thing, Gilot, now 95, remains uncomfortable being known for her association with Picasso, pointing out in multiple interviews that she was considered a good painter before she met him.

Wife without a name

Glenn Close's character in the movie, “The Wife,” could make the same statement in her art as Gilot. She was a good writer before marriage, but like the rest of her gender, was kept from getting the necessary critical attention.

Her husband, who was a writer wannabe, used her talent to gain fame and fortune and, ultimately, the Nobel Prize for Literature. The scenes from their marriage suggest that the movie should have been titled, “The Writer,” referring to her, not him.

As I started this commentary by saying, there's nothing new in this battle of the sexes. The tale of war between men and women is age-old, with a lot of bodies left in its wake.

But given the latter-day movie, museum show, and book on the subject, it's plain to see that we can't get over these wars.

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