Blurbs compiled by Ceci Williams, Art Herstory Intern
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 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).
Unfinished: The Inspired Life of Elisabetta Sirani, by Kelly Evans. Publisher: Eska Publisher, 2022.
They called her La Maestra. Elisabetta Sirani was a talented and prolific artist in seventeenth-century Italy. Trained by her father, she was running his studio by the time she was sixteen and earned her first official commission the following year. Over her short career she produced more than 200 artworks, had patrons that included royalty and noble Italian families, and founded one of the first art schools in Europe exclusively for women. When she died at age 27 of a mysterious ailment, all of Bologna mourned. This is her story.
For young readers
Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Loveis Wise. Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, 2022.
In this celebration of art and the power of imagination, Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise tell the incredible true story of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City and to have her work chosen for the White House collection. With her bold and vibrant abstract paintings, Alma set the world ablaze with color. Ablaze with Color includes extensive backmatter with photos, an author’s and illustrator’s note, a timeline, and a list of sources and resources, which will be a great tool for parents, educators, and librarians.
A Storm of Horses: The Story of Artist Rosa Bonheur, by Ruth Sanderson. Publisher: Crocodile Books, 2022; distributed by Simon & Schuster.
In an ode to underrepresented women everywhere, award-winning illustrator Ruth Sanderson tells the story of French artist Rosa Bonheur in this picture book biography. Rosa Bonheur was born in 1822 in France at a time when young women had limited options beyond being a wife and mother. But Rosa wouldn’t stand for this. She wore pants, rode horses astride, and often broke society’s rules. Defying convention, Rosa went on to become the most celebrated artist of her time; art collectors, museums, and galleries around the world purchased her paintings. This inspiring picture book about Rosa Bonheur, the most famous female painter of her century, is published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the artist’s birth.
Discover Her Art: Women Artists and Their Masterpieces, by Jean Leibowitz and Lisa Rogers. Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 2022.
Discover Her Art invites young art lovers and artists to learn about painting through the lives and masterpieces of 24 women from the 16th to the 20th century. In each chapter, readers arrive at a masterwork, explore it with an artist’s eye, and learn about the painter’s remarkable life and the inspirations behind her work. Young artists will discover how these 24 amazing women used composition, color, value, shape, and line in paintings that range from highly realistic to fully abstract. Hands-on exercises encourage readers to create their own art!
Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life, by Marilyn Nelson. Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books, Hachette, 2022.
Augusta Savage was arguably the most influential American artist of the 1930s. A gifted sculptor, Savage was commissioned to create a portrait bust of W.E.B. Du Bois for the New York Public Library. She flourished during the Harlem Renaissance, and became a teacher to an entire generation of African American artists, including Jacob Lawrence, and would go on to be nationally recognized as one of the featured artists at the 1939 World’s Fair. She was the first-ever recorded Black gallerist. After being denied an artists’ fellowship abroad on the basis of race, Augusta Savage worked to advance equal rights in the arts. This book is a powerful biography in poems about a trailblazing artist and a pillar of the Harlem Renaissance—with an afterword by the curator of the Art & Artifacts Division of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Examined through the lens of cutting-edge scholarship, Artemisia Gentileschi clears a pathway for non-specialist audiences to appreciate the artist’s pictorial intelligence and high-profile career. Bringing to light recent archival discoveries and newly attributed paintings, this book highlights Gentileschi’s original engagement with emerging feminist notions of the value and dignity of womanhood. Sheila Barker weaves the story with in-depth discussions of key artworks, in order to portray the developments in Gentileschi’s approach to her craft and expressive goals and techniques.
This book is an Athena Art Foundation Pick of the Month, and leads the list in Artnet’s 10 Essential New Books on Women Artists to Add to Your Bookshelf Now. Read Ann Landi’s review of the book for The Wall Street Journal and Olivia McEwan’s review for Hyperallergic. And here is a review on Litercurious.
This exquisitely designed volume presents the work of a woman whose work at the forefront of photography has been too long ignored. The English illustrator Anna Atkins (1799–1871) was an early innovator in the history of photography. Presents a large number of Atkins’s images, beautifully reproduced, the book gives contemporary audiences a chance to appreciate this neglected pioneer.
Thérèse Schwartze: Painting for a Living, by Cora Hollema and Pieternel Kouwenhoven. Publisher: Robstolk, 2022.
Thérèse Schwartze: Painting for a Living tells the story of the grueling educational regime imposed on a gifted young girl by her ambitious father, the development of her refined technique and business acumen, and her visits to the royal court. It also tells the story of her international fame, and the vast fortune she amassed, which provoked envy, astonishment, and censure. It is the story of a remarkable personality and a unique career.
This book is included in Artnet’s 10 Essential New Books on Women Artists to Add to Your Bookshelf Now.
Scottish Women Artists, by Charlotte Rostek. Publisher: The Fleming Collection, 2022.
This book introduces a selection of over 60 artists, exploring their professional and personal journeys. It includes the pioneering Catherine Read, breakthrough Victorians such as Phoebe Anna Traquair and 1880s Glasgow Girl Bessie MacNicol. Twentieth-century artists range from Beatrice Huntingdon and Anne Redpath to Joan Eardley, Elizabeth Blackadder, Victoria Crowe and Alison Watt. The story is brought to a triumphant conclusion with the winners and headliners of the Turner Prize and the Venice Biennale. Along the way, author Charlotte Rostek showcases works of integrity and beauty which place women at the heart of the story of Scottish art.
May Alcott Nieriker, Author and Advocate, by Julia Dabbs. Publisher: Anthem Press, 2022.
Like other American women in the later nineteenth century, despite her artistic talent May Alcott Nieriker was unable, due to her gender, to receive the advanced training and exhibition opportunities in the USA that she needed to become a notable professional painter. Fortunately, May was able to make trips to London and Paris to immerse herself more fully in the art world. This book examines the art and travel writings of Nieriker, providing more insight to the fields of nineteenth-century American art. In sum, Nieriker’s writings deserve further attention and interpretation because her texts give voice to critical social and cultural concerns of the nineteenth century, such as gender and class discrimination, that still resonate today.
This book is included in Artnet’s 10 Essential New Books on Women Artists to Add to Your Bookshelf Now.
The Forgotten Alcott – Essays on the Artistic Legacy and Literary Life of May Alcott Nieriker, edited by Azelina Flint and Lauren Hehmeyer. Publisher: Routledge, 2022.
This volume is first scholarly essay collection to focus on the life and career of expatriate artist, writer, and activist May Alcott Nieriker. Embarking on a career that took her across Europe, she forged a network of expatriate female painters who changed the face of nineteenth-century art. In this book, readers will become acquainted with a dynamic feminist thinker who transforms our understanding of the place of women artists in the wider cultural and intellectual life of nineteenth-century Britain, France, and the United States.
Florine Stettheimer: a Biography, by Barbara Bloemink. Publisher: Hirmer Publishers, 2022.
Florine Stettheimer was a feminist and a multi-media artist who painted several sexually explicit, political works examining identity issues documenting New York City’s growth as the center of cultural life, finance, and entertainment between the World Wars. This first full biography of the painter confirms her as one of the twentieth century’s most significant, progressive artists. According to Lauren Moya Ford’s review for Hyperallergic, “The author explores the ways that Stettheimer’s life circumstances and social circle shaped her highly original art, which blended sly humor and private pleasures with socially and politically minded messages about the world at large. Bloemink also illuminates Stettheimer’s little-known but important work in interior, furniture, costume, and set design …”
Read Adam Gopnik’s review of this book for The New Yorker and Alex Greenberger’s review for Artnet. It is included in Artnet’s 10 Essential New Books on Women Artists to Add to Your Bookshelf Now.
Eileen Mayo, by Sara Cooper. Publisher: Eiderdown Books, 2022.
Eileen Mayo (1906–94) was a dedicated and multi-talented artist—at once a painter, printmaker, tapestry designer, engraver and illustrator. Her role as an artist’s model for Laura Knight, Dod Proctor and others sparked a lifetime’s dedication to her work, which won international acclaim and led to a successful career over many decades. Mayo was enraptured by the natural world; the flora, fauna and people she encountered proved a constant source of inspiration. This book charts Mayo’s extraordinary oeuvre, celebrating her artistic legacy.
This book is included in Artnet’s 10 Essential New Books on Women Artists to Add to Your Bookshelf Now.
Nordic Women Sculptors at the Turn of the 20th Century: Formation, Visibiity, Self-Creation, edited by Linda Hinners. Publisher: Nationalmuseum, 2022.
At the turn of the twentieth century, several women from the Nordic countries trained as sculptors. Many travelled to the continent, and to Paris in particular. Several of them enjoyed great success at exhibitions and remained in Paris for most of their lives. Others led a nomadic existence in Europe, living independently and unconventionally by the standards of the time. This book presents the result of a Nordic research project, based at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in collaboration with the National Museum in Oslo and the Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki. It presents more than twenty articles and selected biographies of the sculptors, written by Nordic and European scholars in the field.
Faith Ringgold: Politics / Power, Texts by Faith Ringgold, Michele Wallace and Kirsten Weiss. Publisher: Weiss Publications, 2022.
Providing detailed accounts on Faith Ringgold’s seminal artistic and activist work and its historical context between 1967 and 1981, this publication includes accounts by the artist herself on each artwork. It is organized chronologically to allow readers to retrace the artist’s foundational creative approaches to contemporaneous social, political and artistic questions. It includes illustrations of individual artworks together with previously unpublished work and archival materials. Spanning media such as painting, cut paper works, posters, collage, and textile art, the works presented in this publication foregrounds the artist’s explicitly political work for which she deployed new material and formal processes and developed radical aesthetics and language that give her work and its uncompromising content exceptional intensity.
What Is Now Known Was Once Only Imagined: An (Auto)Biography of Niki de Saint Phalle, by Nicole Rudick and Niki de Saint Phalle. Publisher: Siglio Press, 2022.
Known best for her exuberant works that celebrate the abundance and complexity of female desire, imagination and creativity, Niki de Saint Phalle viewed making art as a ritual. This (auto)biography, told by Nicole Rudick in Saint Phalle’s own words, dilates large and small moments in Saint Phalle’s life. Rudick, in collaboration with the artist, has assembled a detailed mosaic of Saint Phalle’s visual and textual works from a trove of paintings, drawings, sketches and writings, many previously unpublished or long unavailable, that trace her mistakes and successes, her passions and her radical sense of joy.
Mickalene Thomas, by Mickalene Thomas, Kellie Jones and Roxane Gay. Publisher: Phaidon, 2022.
Over the past two decades, Mickalene Thomas’s critically acclaimed and extensive body of work has spanned many mediums, including immersive installations that have become her signature. With influences ranging from nineteenth-century painting to popular culture, Thomas’s art articulates a complex vision of aspiration through gender, race, beauty, sexuality, and celebrity. This book, made in close collaboration with Thomas, is the first to survey the breadth of her extraordinary career.
Somaya Critchlow: Paintings, text by Amanda Renshaw. Publisher: Skira, 2022.
Somaya Critchlow’s canvases and sketchbooks log an ongoing process of world building. Somaya Critchlow: Paintings looks at how the artist fashions these realms by drawing upon her expansive knowledge of picture-making traditions ranging from the Renaissance to the Rococo. In charting the ever-expanding dimensions of this female-dominated universe, Critchlow casually disarms the distinctions that inform concepts of high and low culture by uncovering the ways in which class and racial difference are routinely conflated.
Skin Crafts: Affect, Violence and Materiality in Global Contemporary Art, by Julia Skelly. Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2022.
Skin Crafts discusses multiple artists who employ craft materials in works that address historical and contemporary violence. These artists deliberately embrace the fragility of textiles and ceramics to evoke the vulnerability of human skin and—in so doing—demand visceral responses from viewers. Artists from Mexico, Africa, China, the Netherlands and Indigenous artists based in the unceded territory known as Canada—including Teresa Margolles, Lubaina Himid, Sherry Farrell Racette, Rebecca Belmore and Nadia Myrea, and Doris Salcedo—are examined in relation to one another to illuminate the connections and differences across their bodies of work. Skin Crafts interrogates ongoing material violence towards women and marginalized others, and demonstrates the power of contemporary art to force viewers and scholars into facing their ethical responsibilities as human beings.
Diane Burko: Seeing Climate Change, Foreword by Jack Rasmussen, Text by Bill McKibben, Diane Burko, Norma Broude, Mary D. Garrard. Publisher: American University Museum, 2022.
Painter, photographer and climate activist Diane Burko has long been a prominent advocate for art’s role in addressing climate change. Her increasingly abstract and large-scale images are layered with visual and scientific information about the urgent challenges posed to the planet. This volume presents Burko’s large-scale paintings and serial groupings, including her never-before-exhibited, 56-foot-long World Map series, which addresses climate changes across the globe. The book features more than 120 color illustrations; a new statement by the artist on the evolving nature of her studio practice; essays by each of the curators; and an essay by the environmental author and activist Bill McKibben.
Tamara Kostianovksy: Rapacious Beauty, edited by Gonzalo Casals, with an essay by Rachel Vera Steinberg. Interview with the artist by Tatiana Flores. Publisher: Hirmer Publishers, 2022; available in North America from the University of Chicago Press.
Tamara Kostianovsky creates sculptures from textiles that address the relationship between landscapes, the body, and violence. This volume highlights distinct bodies of her work including sculptures of butchered carcasses, slayed birds, and severed trees. Built with layers of texture, color, and emotion, these works dive head-first into the tension between beauty and horror, confronting histories of systemic violence and transforming them into utopian environments.
Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, by Annemarie Bilclough, with contributions by Richard Fortey and Sarah Glenn and Emma Laws and Liz Hunter MacFarlane. Publisher: Rizzoli, 2022.
This beautiful book explores the beloved Beatrix Potter’s achievements as a storyteller, artist, and naturalist. Potter’s universe of characters—Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddleduck—have delighted audiences for over a century. A creative pioneer and determined entrepreneur, she combined scientific observation with imaginative storytelling to create some of the world’s best-loved children’s books. This volume showcases Potter’s charming characters against the backdrop of her exquisite botanical drawings, humorous illustrated letters to friends, Lake District landscapes, and rarely seen photographs.
Laura Knight: A Panoramic View, edited by Anthony Spira and Fay Blanchard. Publisher: Philip Wilson Publishers / Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022.
Laura Knight (1877–1970) was one of the most famous and popular English artists of the twentieth century. In the following decades her realist style of painting fell out of fashion and her work become largely overlooked—until a new generation has rediscovered her work, finding a contemporary resonance in her depictions of women and marginalized communities. This beautifully illustrated book, which accompanies a major exhibition at MK Gallery, provides an overview of Knight’s illustrious career: from her training at Nottingham Art School at the age of 13 to her paintings of women during the war and her late paintings of nature.
Lubaina Himid, by Michael Wellen. Publisher: Tate Publishing, 2022.
This stunning exhibition book is a groundbreaking new publication on Lubaina Himid, covering areas of her work never before explored. Lubaina Himid is known for her innovative approaches to painting and to social engagement. She has been pivotal in the UK since the 1980s for her contributions to the British Black arts movement. Over the last decade she has earned international recognition for her figurative paintings. Produced in close collaboration with the artist in terms of both content and design, this beautifully illustrated catalogue takes inspiration from her interests in theatre design, architecture, sound and poetry.
Ingrid Pollard: Carbon Slowly Turning, edited by Fay Blanchard and Anthony Spira. Essays by Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Cheryl Finley, Paul Gilroy, Mason Leaver-Yap and Gilane Tawadros. Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2022.
British artist and photographer Ingrid Pollard is renowned for using portrait and landscape photography to question our relationship with the natural world and to interrogate social constructs such as Britishness, race, sexuality and identity. Working across a variety of techniques from photography, printmaking, drawing and installation to artists’ books, video and audio, Pollard combines meticulous research and experimental processes to make art that is at once deeply personal and socially resonant. This book provides the first book-length overview of her works.
The Marina Abramovic Method: Instruction Card to Reboot Your Life, by Marina Abramovic and Katya Tylevich. Publisher: Laurence King, 2022.
A unique, boxed set of 30 instruction cards by Marina Abramović teaches the great artist’s Method for reaching a higher consciousness and confronting life’s challenges. Using exercises Marina Abramović has developed for herself to prepare for her legendary performance works, the Method will help you focus, reconnect with the present, and locate your highest creative potential.
Available as a new edition or new format
Art is a Tyrant: The Unconventional Life of Rosa Bonheur, by Catherine Hewitt. Publisher: Icon Books, 2020; paperback, 2021.
In May 2022, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux celebrates the 200th anniversary of the artist’s birth year with the exhibition Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899). The show brings together almost 200 works—paintings, graphic arts, sculptures, photographs and documents—from public and private collections in Europe and the US. The exhibition moves in October 2022 to the Musée d’Orsay.
Similar Art Herstory posts:
Ten Intriguing Books About Remarkable Women Artists, a guest post by Carol M. Cram