Blurbs compiled by Ceci Williams, Art Herstory Intern
Here we list all the new publications about women artists that have come to our attention, published in the first 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).
Women Artists, Their Patrons, and Their Publics in Early Modern Bologna, by Babette Bohn. Publisher: Penn State University Press, 2021.
In this book, Babette Bohn explorers a time in early modern Bologna, a place and time when women artists where far more numerous and successful than anywhere else in Italy—or the world, for that matter. These early female artists worked as painters, sculptors, printmakers, and embroiderers, breaking the art barriers of which women were often confined to. Within this book, sixty-eight female artists are investigated based on archival research, such artists as Lavinia Fontana and Elisabetta Sirani. The city of Bologna housed a uniquely diverse system of citizens, from an abundance of female artists and writers to representation by all classes, not just the wealthy. Drawing on the history of the city, Bohn presents new interpretations of some of Bologna’s famous female artists and their works and impacts, coinciding with historically grounded insights, models, and innovative ways of thinking.
Read Jacqueline Musacchio’s review of this book for Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, Spring 2021.
The Mirror and the Palette: Rebellion, Revolution and Resilience–500 Years of Women’s Self Portraits, by Jennifer Higgie. Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2021. (Available outside the UK from Simon & Schuster, October 2021.)
In a western art history written mainly by men, the absence of female artists is becoming increasingly clear. As a corrective, Jennifer Higgie’s The Mirror and the Palette introduces the reader to a collection of extraordinary and groundbreaking women artists from the 16th to the 20th century. Within this book, biography and history are intertwined, representing women who turned their back on cultural norms and took up lives of resilience, creativity, and bravery. Written by one of the most well-respected art critics at work today, this book embodies the fact that there are more ways than one to understand the world we live in, and there is more than one way to make art—while also representing feminism and the women artists that have been pushed to the sidelines for far too long.
Read the Literary Review assessment of the book, and the Apollo Magazine review. Here is Celia Paul’s review of the book for The New York Times. Here is Paris Spies-Gans’ review for the LA Review of Books. And here is Julie M. Johnson’s review for the Times Literary Supplement; and here is Candy Bedworth’s review for Daily Art Magazine.
In November 2021, this book was shortlisted for the Apollo 2021 Book of the Year Award.
Eileen Agar, by Laura Smith. Publisher: Eiderdown Books, 2021.
Here is the sixth title in the Modern Women Artists series of collectible books—a series that promotes an alternative history of art, telling stories of female artists whose work might otherwise be overlooked. Eileen Agar is the story of a female painter, photographer, sculptor, and collage artist. Her work in assemblage and color combined with her inventive and unique style has inevitably linked her work with two of the major art movements of 20th-century European culture: surrealism and cubism. Smith presents Agar to the reader, telling of her influences and inspiration found in the natural world, mythology, and classical ideas, all united to form Agar’s versions of modern art.
A Black Hole is Everything a Star Longs to Be, by Kara Walker, Anita Haldemann, Aria Dean, and Maurice Berger. Publisher: JRP Editions, 2021.
Known for her more recent installations, this 600-page compilation of Kara Walker’s works from 1992 to 2020 are published for the first time, some from her own private and guarded archive. Though Walker is most well known for her shocking installations, drawing on paper is the base of the artist’s practice. An alum of both Atlanta College of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design, Walker addresses history, race relations, gender roles, sexuality and violence without censorship. Her work forces the viewer to think and feel deeper with provocative executions, encompassed in this publication. Led by an intro from the artist herself, this book features more than 700 of Walker’s works spanning the entirety of her professional career.
Hilma of Klint: The Paintings for the Temple 1906–1915: Catalogue Raisonné Volume II, by Daniel Birnbaum and Kurt Almqvist. Publisher: Bokförlaget Stolpe, 2021 (distributor, Artbook | D.A.P.)
The second of a projected seven-volume series intending to present the first-ever full collection of Hilma of Klint’s (1862–1944) works, this book showcases this artist’s The Paintings for the Temple, which totaled 193 paintings created between 1906 and 1915. Regarded as a pioneer of the abstract art world, Hilma of Klint’s pieces in this series are very colorful, playing with shapes and biomorphic imagery hoping to communicate Klint’s vision of spiritual reality, originally created in the hopes of being installed in a round temple for further enlightenment in a place of true spirituality. The Paintings for the Temple represents some of Klint’s most famous and recognizable works, and the complete collection can be found within this book.
Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York, by Alexander Nemerov. Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2021.
At the dawn of the 1950s, a promising and dedicated young painter named Helen Frankenthaler, fresh out of college, moved back home to New York City to make her name. By the decade’s end, she had succeeded in establishing herself as an important American artist of the postwar period. In the years in between, she made some of the most daring, head-turning paintings of her day and also came into her own as a woman: traveling the world, falling in and out of love, and engaging in an ongoing artistic education. Fierce Poise is an exhilarating ride through New York’s 1950s art scene and a brilliant portrait of a young artist through the moments that shaped her.
Read Mary Gregory’s Newsday review of this book.
Florine Stettheimer: The Great Masters of Art, by Karin Althaus. Publisher: Hirmer Publishers, 2021.
The art and literature scene of Roaring Twenties New York gathered at Florine Stettheimer’s extravagant parties. Surrounded by the cultivated and yet unconventional “Dada flair”, the artist staged her pictures as a performance—and was thereby well ahead of her time. As an outstanding painter she was not only at the heart of the American art business, but also attracted attention with her eccentric, subversive and often humorous poems, as well as demonstrating her talent as a stage and costume designer in the theatre. This bibliophile monograph about the multitalented artist is lavishly illustrated and tells a new, exciting history of the modern age through her artworks.
Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic, by Karla Huebner. Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021.
Part art book and part biography, Magnetic Woman examines the life and work of the artist Toyen (Marie Čermínová, 1902–80), a founding member of the Prague surrealist group, and focuses on her construction of gender and eroticism. Using primary sources gathered from disparate disciplines and studies of the artist’s own work, Magnetic Woman is organized both chronologically and thematically, moving through Toyen’s career with attention to specific historical circumstances and intellectual developments approximately as they entered her life. Karla Huebner offers a re-evaluation of surrealism, the Central European contribution to modernism, and the role of female artists in the avant-garde, along with a complex and nuanced view of women’s roles in and treatment by the surrealist movement.
Alice Mackler, Text by Matthew Higgs and Kelly Taxter, Interview by Joanne Greenbaum. Publisher: Gregory R. Miller & Co, 2021.
The first-ever written study on Alice Mackler, this volume follows the life and times of the beloved American ceramicist. Though her work has long been pushed to the side, over the past few years she has come to light, pushing the boundaries of contemporary art through many mediums. Through her many influences, including ancient forms and artists such as Paul Klee, Mackler has created a voluptuous and evoking style focusing on the female figure. Alongside colorful photos of her wacky pieces, this study includes essays that further give light to Mackler’s life and vision. Now in her early nineties, Mackler continues to produce works of originality and vitality.
Jo Baer: Up Close in the Land of the Giants, by Jo Baer. Publisher: Pace Gallery, 2021.
Jo Baer: Up Close in the Land of the Giants features new paintings and writings by American painter Jo Baer, currently based in Amsterdam. Created deliberately as a sibling to Baer’s 2013 catalog In the Land of the Giants, this new volume mirrors the 2013 book in both layout and design while delving deeper into the artist’s thinking and reasoning on her own paintings and sources used and referenced in her work. Though wide-ranging, the book is organized into sections such as analysis of certain series of paintings to chapters exploring such subjects as anthropology, geography, astronomy, and archeology. Every one of these topics have influenced Baer’s work, culminating in her unique and minimalistic collections featured in this volume.
Ottilie W. Roederstein: 1859–1937, Edited with Text by Alexander Eiling, Eva-Maria Höllerer. Text by Sandra Gianfreda, Barbara Rök, Iris Schmeisser. Publisher: Hatje Cantz, 2021.
Ottilie W. Roederstein was a successful and trailblazing German painter, before falling into obscurity after her death. This book is a comprehensive study of her work, life, and forgotten accomplishments. Before Roederstein was lost to history, she lived a successful life as a full-time artist, making her living off of commissions. She exhibited internationally until just a few years before her death, in famous shows such as Académie des Beaux-Arts’ Salon and the 1889 Exposition Universelle. She spent her days in Germany with her partner, Elisabeth H. Winterhalter (a gynecologist and one of Germany’s first female surgeons), producing work and perfecting her craft. It isn’t till decades later that the first monograph dedicated to showcasing Roederstein’s impressive body of work is published, presented by the Kunsthaus Zürich and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main. This book is created for readers to appreciate the artist’s early adherence to the academy’s conventions, as well as her vast set of works and unique evolution of style.
Out of the Cage: The Art of Isabel Rawsthorne, by Carol Jacobi. Publisher: Thames & Hudson, 2021.
The first definitive illustrated biography of Isabel Rawsthorne (1912–1992), this publication explores the fascinating work of Rawsthorne as well as the history of her impressive and influential life. Though the artist exhibited in the early 1930s, she was truly famous later in the 1960s, when friends of hers (most notably Picasso, Bacon, Epstein, Derain, and Giacometti) made her the subject of their works, making her famous as a muse rather than an artist actively working in the field. The artist’s work can now be found in major collections, and her history in this book: through the 20th-century pre- and post-war art world, to her role in a rebel group, to her close collaborations with world renowned artists, to her break from art during the second world war.
Behind the Camera: American Women Photographers Who Shaped How We See the World, by Maria Ausherman. Publisher: Goff Books, 2021.
Each of the women in this volumes stepped out of the bounds of physical and social expectations to pursue her personal vision through photography. Some were fortunate to have come from wealthy families who fostered their interests. Others had to make their way by supporting themselves, or they found encouragement from other, more established photographers. Many chose to avoid or leave behind the comforts of married life at a time when marriage provided the primary source of financial security for a woman. Each of them surmounted the challenges they encountered in order to pursue their dreams.
Persevere and Resist: The Strong Black Women of Elizabeth Catlett, by Heather Nickels, with a contribution by Melanie Herzog. Publisher: Paul Holberton, 2021 (available in the US from the University of Chicago Press).
This book presents exciting new scholarship on the work of Mexican and American artist Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012). Accompanying an exhibition at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Persevere and Resist reconsiders Catlett’s works through the lens of contemporary psychology and sociology. Catlett was one of the most important visual chroniclers of the African American experience in the twentieth century. In addition to her print and drawing practice, Catlett was also an accomplished sculptor working in stone, wood, and clay in her lengthy career, which spanned six decades. The book offers reproductions of nearly three dozen prints and sculptures, along with an essay by noted Catlett expert Melanie Herzog that explores the artist’s life through the lens of today’s social concerns.
Joan Mitchell, Edited by Sarah Roberts and Katy Siegel; with contributions by Paul Auster, Gisele Barreau, Eric de Chassey, Jennifer Hickey and David Reed, Eileen Myles, Richard Shiff, Joyce Pensato, Jenni Quilter, et al. Publisher: Yale University Press, 2021.
Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) was fearless in her experimentation, creating works of unparalleled beauty, strength, and emotional intensity. This gorgeous book unfolds the story of an artistic master of the highest order, revealing the ways she expanded abstract painting and illuminating the transatlantic contexts that shaped her. Lavish illustrations cover the full arc of her artistic practice, from her exceptional New York paintings of the early 1950s to the majestic multipanel compositions she made in France later in her career. Signature works are represented here along with rarely seen paintings, works on paper, artist’s sketchbooks, and photographs of Mitchell’s life, social circle, and surroundings.
Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life, Edited with text by Ruba Katrib. Text by Anne Dressen, Nick Mauss, Alex Kitnick, & Lanka Tattersall. Publisher: MoMA PS1, 2021.
This volume explores the much-beloved artist Niki de Saint Phalle, from her public installations to private, archival works. She is known for her colorful, statement-making sculptures; this book provides a backstory for these pieces, like how she funded them. Within this book, a wide selection of vivid images of her architectural works over the years is provided, alongside descriptions of her practice and politically charged works—issues from feminism to the AIDS crisis. Saint Phalle’s efforts and works from the 1960s to the early 2000s are encapsulated within this book, an arranged effort to prove to the reader who the artist was and her radical practice that defied the art world.
Sarah Sze: Night into Day, Text by Bruno Latour, Leanne Sacramone. Conversation between Sarah Sze, Jean Nouvel. Publisher: Foundation Cartier Pour Lart, 2021.
Designed closely with the artist, this catalogue accompanies Sarah Sze’s second solo show at the Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain. The pieces within the collection are Sze’s dive into contemporary images—from pixel and print to deep space to the deep web, exploring the concepts of memory, presence, and relationship. Including an essay by philosopher Bruno Latour and a conversation between the artist and Jean Nouvel, the book intends to provide further detail and exploration of Sze’s installation as well as insight into her artistic philosophy.
Kathy Goodell: Infra-Loop, Selections, 1994–2020, by Andrew Woolbright. Publisher: SUNY Press, 2021.
Kathy Goodell: Infra-Loop: Selections 1994–2020 explores the through-lines in the artist’s work across painting, drawing, and sculpture; examining a mystic language that loops between disciplines, coasts, and generations. In addition to reproductions of Goodell’s work, are essays and interviews from critics and artists that expand Goodell’s work and artistic practice over the last three decades.
Isa Genzken: Works from 1973 to 1983, Edited with text by Søren Grammel. Text by Simon Baier, Jutta Koether, Griselda Pollock. Publisher: Walther König, 2021.
This volume is dedicated to Isa Genzken and the excavation of her earliest works, from her time as a student at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts till her creative work done before her move to Cologne, Germany. This volume includes Genzken’s responses in her early works to minimalism and conceptualism, and how her abstract work hid echoes of her life and personal relationships. Alongside her work in photography, drawing, computer printouts, and film, essays by Simon Baier, Jutta Koether, and Griselda Pollock further enhance and inspect Genzken’s life, meditations, and early oeuvre.
Rachel Rose, Text by Wai Chee Dimock, Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel, Quinn Latimer, Timothy Morton, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Moritz Wesseler. Publisher: Walther König, 2021.
Through her complex video installations, Rachel Rose uses visual storytelling to explain and describe her version of the human experience, including elements of sensory experience and themes of mortality and narrative. Rose’s installations explore history, relationships, and belief systems through topics ranging from soul music to space walks. This volume coincides with Rose’s first large-scale solo show, exhibiting in both Germany and France. Documenting her wide variety of video installations and a brand-new series of sculptures, this volume is a collective effort by many authors, encapsulating Rachel Rose’s work so far.
Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities, Edited by Sadia Abbas and Jan Howard. Publisher: Hirmer Verlag, 2021.
This lively exhibition catalogue presents the powerful early work of Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander, created between 1987 and 2003, from South Asian, West Asian, and Western perspectives, illuminating new understandings for a wide audience. Charting her early development as an artist in Lahore and the United States, the book reclaims her critical role in bringing miniature painting into dialogue with contemporary art, especially in Pakistan, international art discourse of the 1990s, and contemporary global practices and debates.
Shuvinai Ashoona: Mapping Worlds, edited by Gaetane Verna. Publisher: Hirmer, 2021.
Existing somewhere between dystopic and utopic, Shuvinai Ashoona’s earthly and extraterrestrial worlds exist within a kinder intergalactic future. The book provides insight into her practice, with essays from Canadian and international authors, reflections on specific drawings, a select exhibition history and large-format illustrations, including installation images from The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, Canada.
What a Woman Can Do: A Novel Based on the Life of Artemisia Gentileschi, by Peg A. Lamphier. Publisher: Barbera Foundation, 2021.
Though she was “just a girl,” Artemisia Gentileschi’s father recognized and nurtured his daughter’s raw talent and escorted her into the male-dominated elite circle of seventeenth-century fine artists. Later dishonored in the most humiliating way and betrayed by her father for the sake of his own reputation and fortune, the Caravaggio-inspired teenager summoned the fortitude to confront the monster who had stolen her virtue in a very public months-long trial.
At a time when a woman’s reputation meant everything, Artemisia was considered damaged goods. Undeterred, she forged a daring path, earning a living through commissions from popes and cardinals, dukes and duchesses, kings and queens. Though traditionally objectified in art, Artemisia’s brushstrokes celebrated women’s strength and defiance.
For centuries, her father got credit for many of her paintings, but today they stand on their own merit, their creator’s dishonor and personal tragedies lost to time. Until now.
Available as a new edition or new format
Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Linda Nochlin and Catherine Grant. Publisher: Thames and Hudson, 2021.
Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay titled Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? changed the way art history was viewed and created a new wave of feminist art history. The essay forces the reader to question assumptions of history so long upheld, and refuses the idea that there have been no “great women artists.” Nochlin uncovers and dissects the hidden truth; that the acceptance of the white male viewpoint has led to a male-centric and female-excluding genius in art. In this 50th-anniversary edition, the essay that rocked the art world is published alongside a piece titled, “Thirty Years After,” a re-assessment of Nochlin’s original work in a time of reimagining theories of feminism, sexuality, and race.
Artemisia Gentileschi: The Language of Painting, by Jesse Locker. Publisher: Yale University Press, 2021 (new in paperback; original hardback published in 2015).
Known today as one of the most influential and expressive painters working during the seventeenth century, Artemisia Gentileschi has become a prominent figure only in the past two decades. After years of neglect, this new notice of the artist is most likely due to her early life, a dramatic and shocking story for the people of her time: the rape trial of her painting tutor became almost infamous, and she was also the first woman to be admitted into the Accademia del Disegno in Florence. Because of this focus on Gentileschi’s early life and works, her later years were largely ignored. This publication provides a new look at the artist’s later career, refuting the assumptions made about her based on her being semi-illiterate and arguing for her place in the cultural history of the seventeenth century.
Maria Merian’s Butterflies Coloring Book: Drawings from the Royal Collection, by Arcturus Publishing, 2021.
An influential seventeenth-century insect zoologist and illustrator, Maria Merian’s work in her field, including new discoveries, was suppressed by the male-dominated field she worked in. During a research sailing trip from the Netherlands to South American with her daughter, Merian studied and sketched the insects and creatures living in the jungles of what is now known as Suriname. Despite being labelled as scientific drawings, the work she produced was undoubtedly wonderfully created works of art. This coloring book supplies a collection of Merian’s flora and butterfly illustrations in black and white line drawings, provided by the Royal Collection Trust.
Similar Art Herstory posts:
Ten Intriguing Books About Remarkable Women Artists, a guest post by Carol M. Cram