Here we list all the new books about women artists—from the past, and also from the present—that have come to our attention, published in the second quarter of this calendar year. Each description is drawn from the blurb on the publisher’s website. If you know of other titles that should be on this list, please let us know by comment or by email (Erika@artherstory.net).
For young readers
Alma’s Art, by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Anita Cheung. Publisher: Hightree Publishing, 2022.
Alma’s Art is inspired by African American painter Alma Woodsey Thomas, the treasured expressionist who made her national debut in the art world at age 80. Alma kept beauty and happiness at the forefront of her painting technique, studying how light and color worked together in the shapes and patterns on her canvases. Alma’s Art is an important book to paint young minds with broad strokes that celebrate the colors of our world.
Georgia O’Keeffe, by María Herreros. Publisher: SelfMadeHero, 2022.
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986), the American artist known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes, was one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. During her lifetime, which spanned almost a century, she became widely recognised for her huge contribution to modern art.
Drawing mainly from O’Keeffe’s letters that are depicted in this biography, artist María Herreros delves into O’Keeffe’s deepest self: a tireless traveller, a nature lover, a strong and emancipated woman who carved her own determined path through life and did it her way.
The Lone Snake: The Story of Sofonisba Anguissola, by Lisa Vihos. Publisher: Water’s Edge Press, 2022.
In The Lone Snake, Lisa Vihos brings Renaissance artist Sofonisba Anguissola to life as a woman yearning for recognition in a world not ready for her. Vihos’ portrait of life in the 16th century is a rich tapestry that blends art history, romance, and verse to tell a timeless tale of what it means to create.
A Revolution on Canvas: The Rise of Women Artists in Britain and France, 1760–1830, by Paris Spies-Gans. Publisher: Paul Mellon Centre, 2022; North American publisher, Yale University Press.
This groundbreaking book argues that exactly as political citizenship was being defined as a male privilege, women entered the public sphere as professional artists in significant numbers for the first time. Its subjects include a number of increasingly well-known painters, such as Angelica Kauffman, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, alongside many other artists who were lauded in their own times but are little-known in ours. The book challenges several longstanding assumptions and myths about women’s artistic activity during this period. Ultimately it presents overwhelming evidence to contend that with their art, women engaged profoundly with the cultural, political, and economic currents of the Revolutionary era, navigating institutional inequalities that were often expressly designed to exclude members of their sex in order to forge profitable artistic identities.
Read Tabitha Barber’s review of this book for The Art Newspaper.
The traumatic surreal: Germanophone women artists and Surrealism after the Second World War, by Patricia Allmer. Publisher: Manchester University Press, 2022.
The traumatic surreal is the first major study to examine the ground-breaking role played by Germanophone women artists working in surrealist traditions in responding to the traumatic events and legacies of the Second World War. Analysing works in a variety of media by leading artists and writers, the book redefines the post-war trajectories of surrealism and recalibrates critical understandings of the movement’s relations to historical trauma. Chapters address artworks, writings and compositions by the Swiss Meret Oppenheim, the German Unica Zürn, the Austrian Birgit Jürgenssen, the Luxembourg-Austrian Bady Minck and the Austrian Olga Neuwirth and her collaboration with fellow Austrian Nobel-prize winning novelist Elfriede Jelinek. Locating each artist in their historical context, the book traces the development of the traumatic surreal through the wartime and post-war period.
Françoise Gilot: The Years in France, edited by Elisa Farran and Annie Maïllis. Publisher: Silvana Editoriale, 2022.
Françoise Gilot’s “French years” reveal an oeuvre that remains too little known, especially in France: after all, Gilot had dared to leave Picasso, who had instructed galleries and critics to reject her, and had told the story of her life with him in a bestselling volume, and had migrated to the US. Published in honor of the artist’s 100th birthday, Françoise Gilot: The Years in France corrects this deliberate eclipse of Gilot’s accomplishment as a painter. Containing more than 90 color images of her paintings and drawings, this hardcover book gives a complete overview of this formative moment in her career.
Women’s Work: From Feminine Arts to Feminist Art, by Ferren Gipson. Publisher: The Quarto Group, 2022.
In the history of western art, decorative and applied arts—including textiles and ceramics—have been separated from the “high arts” of painting and sculpture, and deemed to be more suitable for women. Artists began to reclaim and redefine these materials and methods, energizing them with expressions of identity and imagination. Women’s Work tells the story of this radical change, highlighting some of the modern and contemporary artists who dared to defy this hierarchy and who, through, experimentation and invention, transformed their medium. With biographical entries on each artist featured, as well as beautiful images of their artworks, Women’s Work raises up the work of these visionary and groundbreaking artists, telling their stories and examining their artistic legacies.
LaToya Ruby Frazier: Flint is Family in Three Acts, edited with text by Michal Raz-Russo. Text by LaToya Ruby Frazier, Community Members of Flint, Leigh Raiford, Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr. Publisher: Seidel / The Gordon Parks Foundation, 2022.
LaToya Ruby Frazier’s Flint Is Family in Three Acts chronicles the ongoing manmade water crisis in Flint, Michigan, from the perspective of those who live and fight for their right to access free, clean water. Featuring photographs, texts, poems and interviews made in collaboration with Flint’s residents, this five-year body of work, begun in 2016, serves as an intervention and alternative to mass media accounts of this political, economic and racial injustice.
Wendy Red Star: Delegation, Artworks by Wendy Red Star; contributions by Jordan Amirkhani, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Josh T. Franco, Annika K. Johnson, Layli Long Soldier, and Tiffany Midge. Publisher: Aperture Foundation / Documentary Arts, 2022.
Delegation is the first comprehensive monograph by Apsáalooke/Crow artist Wendy Red Star, whose photography recasts historical narratives with wit, candor, and a feminist, Indigenous perspective. Red Star centers Native American life and material culture through imaginative self-portraiture, vivid collages, archival interventions, and site-specific installations. Whether referencing nineteenth-century Crow leaders or 1980s pulp fiction, museum collections or family pictures, she constantly questions the role of the photographer in shaping Indigenous representation. Including a dynamic array of Red Star’s lens-based works from 2006 to the present, and a range of essays, stories, and poems, Delegation is a spirited testament to an influential artist’s singular vision.
Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way, by Emma Ridgway and Courtney J. Martin. Publisher: Yale University Press, in association with the British Council, 2022.
The British artist Sonia Boyce (b. 1962) is celebrated for depicting intimate social encounters that explore interpersonal dynamics in drawing, photography, video, and installation, using images and sounds captured during the participatory art events she initiates. Boyce’s immersive new exhibition for the British Council commission at La Biennale di Venezia 2022 is her most ambitious to date—focusing on collaborative play as a route to artistic innovation and the importance of taking creative risks—both central tenets of Boyce’s exceptional artistic practice. Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way captures the drama and scope of this multisensory work as it unfolds throughout the British Pavilion. Boyce came to prominence as a key figure in the British Black arts movement of the 1980s and the authors’ texts connect this astonishing new work with Boyce’s preceding works and her abiding interests and concerns.
Three Women Artists: Expanding Abstract Expressionism in the American West, by Amy Von Lintel and Bonnie Roos. Publisher: Texas A&M University Press, 2022.
This book is focused on three artists: Elaine de Kooning, Jeanne Reynal, and Louise Nevelson. In their travels to and work in the High Plains, they were inspired to innovate their abstract styles and introduce new critical dialogues through their work. Authors Amy Von Lintel and Bonnie Roos demonstrate that these women’s New York avant-garde, abstract styles were attractive to Panhandle-area ranchers, bankers, and aspiring art students. Perhaps as importantly, they show that these artists’ aesthetics evolved in light of their regional experiences. Offering their work as a supplement and corrective to the frameworks of patriarchal, East Coast ethnocentrism, Von Lintel and Roos make the case for Texas as influential in the national art scene of the latter half of the twentieth century.
Marina Abramović, by Ossian Ward. Publisher: Laurence King, 2022.
Marina Abramović has truly pioneered performance as a visual art form. Her work—notorious for its feats of endurance, pain and intense physical encounter—has pushed the boundaries of contemporary art and cemented her reputation as one of the most significant artists of the past 50 years. This book brings her complete practice together into one concise and essential volume.
Katharina Grosse: Cloud in the Shape of a Sword, edited by Rosemarie Schwarzwälder. Publisher: Hirmer Publishers, 2022.
Grosse’s colorful interventions have had a powerful influence on debates in contemporary art; her expansive paintings celebrate the processual and the unfinished. This handsome publication, completed in direct cooperation with the artist and her studio, leads the reader through Grosse’s multidimensional work and illustrates the broad creative spectrum of this exceptional artist’s oeuvre through the most recent examples of her in situ praxis.
Käthe Kollwitz: A Survey of Her Work 1867–1945, edited by Hannelore Fischer. Publisher: Hirmer Publishers, 2022.
With her great cycles of graphic works, Käthe Kollwitz demonstrated her skills as a graphic artist at an early stage in a remarkable manner. From the start of her career her etchings, lithographs and woodcuts were included in the collections of renowned art institutes. Her fame as an artist grew steadily and was acknowledged by countless awards. In 1919 she was even the first woman to be appointed professor by the Prussian Academy of Arts. This new monograph presents with unprecedented density the life and work of Käthe Kollwitz, one of the most important German artists of Classic Modernism.
Read Dorothy Price’s review of this book for The Art Newspaper.
Wendat Women’s Arts, by Annette W. de Stecher. Publisher: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2022.
For centuries, women artists of the Wendat First Nation of Wendake in Quebec have created artworks of intricate design and complex meaning in moosehair and quill embroidery. Their work records and transmits ancestral knowledge across generations of artists and remains a vibrant and important practice today. Breaking new ground in Indigenous art histories, Wendat Women’s Arts is the first book to bring together a full history of the Wendat embroidery art form. Annette de Stecher challenges the historical anonymity of Indigenous women artists by arguing for their central role in community history and ceremony. In vibrant illustrations, this book reconstructs the rich repertoire of Wendat embroidery now dispersed in collections throughout the world.
Our Selves: Photographs by Women Artists, Edited by Roxana Marcoci, with contributions from Helen Kornblum, Kathy Halbreich, Dana Ostrander, Caitlin Ryan, and Phil Taylor. Publisher: Museum of Modern Art, 2022.
Our Selves: Photographs by Women Artists spans more than one hundred years of photography, from a turn-of-the-century photograph of racially segregated education in the United States, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, to a contemporary portrait celebrating Indigenous art forms, by the Chemehuevi artist Cara Romero. By looking at the intersections of photography with feminism, civil rights, Indigenous sovereignty, and queer liberation, Our Selves contributes vital insights into figures too often excluded from our current cultural narratives.
All Becomes Art: Volume 1, Writing inspired by Joan Eardley, edited by Colin Herd and Sam Small. Publisher: Speculative Books, 2022.
This anthology brings together poems and other writings that respond to the paintings and drawings of Joan Eardley, in celebration of the centenary of her birth in 2021. It includes writings by William Bonar, Max Scratchmann, Sarah-Clare Conlon, Rachel Fox, Maggie Mackay, Ellen Galford, Donal McLaughlin, Elaine Webster,Georgina Coburn, Cailean McBride, Tom Docherty, Helen Tookey, Sheila Bryer, Annie Kissack, Cynthia Fuller, Tamar Yoseloff, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Kay Ritchie, Jane George, James McGonigal, Marka Rifat, Jock Stein, Amy B. Moreno, Sonya Macdonald, William Hume, Loretta Mulholland, Kirsty Niven, Emily Ilett, Solomon Jessie, Lindsay Macgregor, Jerry Simcock, Susannah White, Lynn Valentine, Eileen Farrelly, Alison Cohen, C.M. Strong, Juliet Antill, Olive M. Ritch, Joan Lennon, Pippa Little, Charlotte Cosgrove, Rebecca Smith, Seth Crook, Colin Campbell Robinson, Charles Fletcher, Mark Coverdale, Lynda McDonald, Gerrie Fellows, Maria Sledmere, Maria Sledmere, Jay Whittaker, Susan Miller, Jessica Cooper, Colin Rutherford, Kathrine Sowerby, Linda Kemp, and Sean Turner McLeod.
Letters to Gwen John, by Celia Paul. Publisher: New York Review Books, 2022.
Celia Paul’s Letters to Gwen John centers on a series of letters addressed to the Welsh painter Gwen John (1876–1939), who has long been a tutelary spirit for Paul. John spent much of her life in France, making art on her own terms and, like Paul, painting mostly women. John’s reputation was overshadowed during her lifetime by her brother, Augustus John, and her lover Auguste Rodin. Through the epistolary form, Paul draws fruitful comparisons between John’s life and her own: their shared resolve to protect the sources of their creativity, their fierce commitment to painting, and the ways in which their associations with older male artists affected the public’s reception of their work.
Women Painting Women, edited with text by Andrea Karnes; preface by Marla Price; text by Emma Amos, Faith Ringgold, and Lorna Simpson. Publisher: DelMonico Books, 2022.
A thematic exploration of nearly 50 female artists who choose women as subject matter in their works, Women Painting Women includes nearly 50 portraits that span the 1960s to the present. International in scope, the book recognizes female perspectives that have been underrepresented in the history of postwar figuration. The pivotal narrative in Women Painting Women is how the artists included use the conventional portrait of a woman as a catalyst to tell another story outside of male interpretations of the female body. Replete with complexities, realness, abjection, beauty, complications, everydayness and joy, the portraits in this volume make way for women artists to share the stage with their male counterparts in defining the image of woman and how it has evolved.
Gio Swaby, text by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Melinda Watt, Gio Swaby and Katherine Pill. Publisher: Rizzoli Electa, 2022.
Gio Swaby’s intimate portraits are unique, highly personal figurative works made from an array of colorful fabrics and intricate, freehand lines of thread on canvas that explore the intersections of Blackness and womanhood. Illustrated with 80 works in full color that span from 2017 to 2021, this is the first book on this contemporary feminist artist who is a rising star in the world of textiles and portraiture. According to Swaby, “I wanted to create a space where we could see ourselves reflected in a moment of joy, celebrated without expectations, without connected stereotypes.” Accompanied by a traveling exhibition, this book on the Bahamian artist’s textile portraits serves as a love letter to Black women: their style, strength, vulnerabilities, and beauty.
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Ten Intriguing Books About Remarkable Women Artists, a guest post by Carol M. Cram