The first half-dozen books in the series Illuminating Women Artists, published by London-based art books publisher Lund Humphries, are officially contracted!

Draft cover for Luisa Roldán, the inaugural volume in the series “Illuminating Women Artists,” forthcoming in Fall 2021.

Authoritative and richly illustrated, the books in the first subseries focus on women artists of the Renaissance and Baroque. The subjects of the inaugural volumes are:

The publication schedule is not firmly set, so it is not possible to present the books in the order in which they will appear. Instead, we list them in order by the lifespan of the artist, from the earliest-born to the latest:

Plautilla Nelli, by Catherine Turrill Lupi

Saint Catherine of Siena, no date, by Plautilla Nelli. Uffizi Galleries, via Wikimedia.

Plautilla Nelli, Renaissance nun and painter, has been much in the news this past year. Last Fall, one of her two known signed paintings, the nearly 22-foot-long Last Supper, was unveiled at Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The organization Advancing Women Artists (AWA) played a major role in the restoration of this extraordinary work—which was profiled in The Guardian, Smithsonian Magazine, and NBC’s Today Show, among many other news outlets around the world. Plautilla Nelli provides a comprehensive overview of this artist-nun’s life, career, oeuvre, and historic significance, as well as an updated checklist of the artist’s known works. Catherine Turrill Lupi examines Suor Plautilla’s known works against the historical framework provided by archival records, contemporary writings, and other material.

The author of this volume is Catherine Turrill Lupi, Professor Emerita of Art History at California State University, Sacramento.

Barbara Longhi, by Liana Cheney

Madonna Adoring the Child, c. 1585–1605, by Barbara Longhi. The Walters Art Museum.

This book surveys the life and work of Renaissance artist Barbara Longhi, who was born into a family of painters in Ravenna. In it, author Liana Cheney synthesizes the existing scholarship published about Longhi in English and Italian. She supplements this synthesis with recent findings from her own research, such as new discoveries about the whereabouts of Longhi’s personal household. In this first monograph in English to be devoted to Longhi, Cheney pays special attention to the artist’s paintings of religious themes, her self-portraits, and her genre painting. She compares Longhi’s work with that of contemporary female and male painters such as Sofonisba Anguissola, Lavinia Fontana, Annibale Carraci, Luca Longhi, and Francesco Longhi. 

Liana Cheney, the author of this volume, is Professor Emerita of Art History at the University of Massachusetts–Lowell.

Artemisia Gentileschi, by Sheila Barker

Detail, Allegory of inclination, between 1615 and 1616, by Artemisia Gentileschi. Casa Buonarroti, via Wikimedia.

Like Plautilla Nelli, Artemisia Gentileschi is a historical woman artist currently enjoying a “moment.” The blockbuster exhibition Artemisia opens this Fall at London’s National Gallery. Forthcoming displays of her paintings in the United States include Variations at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Artemisia Gentileschi and Italian Woman Artists around 1600, a joint production of the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wadsworth Atheneum. In Artemisia Gentileschi, Sheila Barker explores this female Old Master’s dramatic and exceptional life story through the lens of cutting-edge scholarship, recent archival discoveries, and new painting attributions. Barker’s profile of the artist exposes readers to Artemisia’s pictorial intelligence. This book highlights the artist’s achievement of a remarkably lucrative and high-profile career. It also recognizes Artemisia’s enterprising and original engagement with emerging feminist notions of the value and dignity of womanhood.

Author Sheila Barker is the Founding Director of the Jane Fortune Research Program at the Medici Archive Project in Florence. 

Judith Leyster, by Frima Fox Hofrichter

Self-Portrait, c. 1630, by Judith Leyster. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Recent (re)discoveries of works by Judith Leyster have raised this artist’s profile in recent years. She is one of only five women artists represented in the new CODART Canon, which in December 2019 designated her Boy Playing the Flute (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm) as a “masterpiece.” Her oeuvre includes still-life, genre, and portraits. She created oil paintings, watercolors, and etchings; and she worked in two of the most important seventeenth-century Dutch centers, Haarlem and Amsterdam. In this book, Frima Fox Hofrichter probes especially the context of Leyster’s life, work, and family, comparing her experiences and circumstances to those of other women artists. Hofrichter also examines the art market for Leyster’s paintings, and the significance of music and musical instruments to her art.

Frima Fox Hofrichter, the author of this volume, is Professor of the History of Art and Design at Pratt Institute in New York City.

Luisa Roldán, by Catherine Hall-van den Elsen

Virgin of Solitude, 1705, by Luisa Roldán. Detroit Institute of Arts.

The first monograph about the artist in English, this book explores life and work of Luisa Roldán, a woman artist who rose to prominence as a sculptor for the Spanish court. Despite her fame in the seventeenth century—and despite that her work continues to grace churches and convents throughout Spain—in much of the world, her name and her story have been all but forgotten. In Luisa Roldán, Catherine Hall-van den Elsen presents a comprehensive overview of Roldán’s life as a female sculptor in early modern Spain. The book also includes descriptions and illustrations of the variety of work she produced, including over life-sized works in wood and small terracotta groups. The book is now in production, and is expected to be published in Fall 2021.

This volume’s author, Catherine Hall-van den Elsen, taught at RMIT University (Australia) as a Senior Lecturer. She is today’s leading authority on Luisa Roldán. The book is available outside North America through Lund Humphries. From September 21, 2021, it will be available within North America from Getty Publications.

Rachel Ruysch, by Marianne Berardi

Still Life with Rose Branch, Beetle and Bee, 1741, by Rachel Ruysch. Kunstmuseum Basel.

Rachel Ruysch enjoyed a long and prosperous life as one of Holland’s most esteemed flower and fruit painters. Her work brought her into contact with scientists, artists, wealthy Dutch merchants, powerful politicians, and an international group of aristocratic patrons. Rachel Ruysch is the first book to treat the many facets of the artist’s career. Marianne Berardi explores the biographical and socio-economic factors that enabled Ruysch to attain such a high level of achievement in a male-dominated profession. Importantly, it shows how her approach to creating flower and fruit paintings, though initially influenced by other artists, evolved into a style that no other painter could have conceived. Berardi examines Ruysch’s flowers not only in terms of how they looked, but also of how they would smell. She analyzes the season in which the plants bloom; where the flowers originated; and whether the flowers were chosen on the basis of symbolic significance, or because they were rare or toxic.

Author Marianne Berardi is Senior Fine Arts Specialist, European and American Paintings at Heritage Auctions.

Update, March 2021: Read about more forthcoming subjects of Illuminating Women Artist volumes on the Lund Humphries blog.


The General Editors of this book series are Professors Andrea Pearson (American University) and Marilyn Dunn (Loyola University Chicago). For more information about the series, including the list of advisory board members, visit the Illuminating Women Artists page on the Lund Humphries website, or this previous Art Herstory blog post.

Erika Gaffney is the Founder of Art Herstory. She is also the Lund Humphries Commissioning Editor for Art History.

Quarterly updates | New books about women artists:

New Books About History’s Women Artists | July–Sept 2020

New Books About History’s Women Artists | Apr–Jun 2020

New Books About History’s Women Artists | Jan–Mar 2020

New Books About History’s Women Artists | Oct–Dec 2019

New Books about Women Artists | Sept 2019

And see also:

Ten Intriguing Books About Remarkable Women Artists, guest post by Carol M. Cram

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