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 final quarter of this calendar year. Each description is drawn from the blurb on the publisher’s website. Do 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
What the Artist Saw: Frida Kahlo, by Amy Guglielmo, illustrated by Natalia Rojas Castro. Publisher: The Met / DK Children, 2023.
In What the Artist Saw: Frida Kahlo, meet the famous Mexican painter. Learn all about how she experimented with different ways of painting herself and how she channeled her experiences into her art. Have a go at producing your own self portrait! This volume is published in an illustrated series of books to keep and collect, created in full collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Louise Bourgeois Made Giant Spiders and Wasn’t Sorry, by Fausto Gilberti. Publisher: Phaidon, 2023.
Louise Bourgeois was a world-famous artist who told stories of her life through her art until she was 98 years old. Her famous giant spiders fascinate—and sometimes terrify—art-lovers to this day, but the truth behind the inspiration for these towering sculptors is not as scary as it may seem. This is an inspiring story about a young girl who became the first female sculptor to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York—a unique picture-book celebration for children of an important contemporary artist.
The Art of Mary Linwood: Embroidery, Installation, and Entrepreneurship in Britain, 1787–1845, by Heidi Strobel. Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2023.
A pioneering woman in the male-dominated art world of late Georgian Britain, Mary Linwood established her own London gallery in 1798 that featured copies of well-known paintings by these popular artists. This book brings to the fore Linwood’s gallery guides and previously unpublished letters to her contemporaries, such as Birmingham inventor Matthew Boulton and Queen Charlotte. It also includes the first and only catalogue of Linwood’s extant and destroyed works. By examining Linwood’s replicas and their accompanying objects through the lens of material culture, the book provides a much-needed contribution to the scholarship on women and cultural agency in the early 19th century.
For a more condensed take on the artist, read Heidi Strobel’s Art Herstory guest post Mary Linwood’s Balancing Act.
Embroidering the Landscape: Women, Art and the Environment in British North America, 1740–1770, by Andrea Pappas. Publisher: Lund Humphries, 2023.
Linking histories of women, relationships to the natural environment, material culture and art, Andrea Pappas investigates how and why women pictured the landscape in their needlework. It explores the ways their embroidered landscapes address the tumultuous environmental history of the period; how their depictions of nature differ from those made by men; and what women’s choices of motifs can tell us about their lives and their relationships to nature. Pappas’ investigation draws out connections between women’s depicted landscapes and environmental and cultural history at a time when nature itself was a charged arena for changes in agriculture, husbandry, gardening, and the emerging discourses of botany and natural history. Her insights change our understanding of the relationship between culture and the environment in this period and raise new questions about the unrecognized extent of women’s engagement with nature and natural science.
Women, Environment, and Networks of Empire: Elizabeth Gwillim and Mary Symonds in Madras, Edited by Anna Winterbottom, Victoria Dickenson, Ben Cartwright and Lauren Williams. Publisher: McGill-Queens University Press.
Elizabeth Gwillim (1763–1807) and her sister Mary Symonds (1772–1854) produced over two hundred watercolours depicting birds, fish, flowers, people, and landscapes around Madras (now Chennai). In their studies of natural history, Gwillim and Symonds relied on the expertise of Indian bird-catchers, fishermen, physicians, artists, and translators, contributing to a unique intersection of European and Asian natural knowledge. The sisters’ extensive correspondence demonstrates how women shaped networks of trade and scholarship through exchanges of plants, books, textiles, and foods. In Women, Environment, and Networks of Empire, the first book about their work and lives, an interdisciplinary group of scholars use the paintings and writings of Elizabeth Gwillim and Mary Symonds to explore natural history, the changing environment, colonialism, and women’s lives at the turn of the 19th century.
Birds of the World: The Art of Elizabeth Gould, by Andrea Hart and Ann Datta. Publisher: Prestel Publishing, 2023.
The brilliant artist Elizabeth Gould is finally given the recognition she deserves in this gorgeous volume that includes hundreds of her stunning and scientifically precise illustrations of birds from nearly every continent. For all of her short life, Elizabeth’s artistic career was appreciated through the lens of her husband, ornithologist John Gould, with whom she embarked on a series of ambitious projects to document the birds of the world. Elizabeth played a crucial role in these projects publications, creating historically significant illustrations of over 600 birds many of which were new to science. However, Elizabeth’s role in the creation of her husband’s publications was hardly credited. This volume finally offers an important tribute to Elizabeth’s reputation and skill as one of the greatest bird painters of all time.
Read an online interview with the author here.
Marianne North’s Travel Writing: Every Step a Fresh Picture, by Michelle Payne, with a foreword by Advolly Richmond. Publisher: Kew Gardens, 2023.
Marianne North’s Travel Writing offers fresh insight into the pioneering traveller and artist Marianne North (1830–1890). Excerpts from her personal correspondence and passages from her published autobiography combine to produce a vivid first-person account revealing her interests, opinions and experiences, along with all the pleasures and frustrations of prolonged overseas travel. The book relays pertinent details about North’s life and considers her varied attitudes towards the people she met and the places she visited, including what her writings and paintings may suggest about her attitudes to empire and colonialism. The chapter sequence is chronological (from North America to Chile); with multiple trips to the same country grouped together, with the relevant year indicated.
Painting her Pleasure: Three Women Artists and the Nude in Avant-Garde Paris, by Lauren Jimerson. Publisher: Manchester University Press, 2023.
This book examines nudes by three women: Suzanne Valadon, Émilie Charmy and Marie Vassilieff. Working in avant-garde Paris, these artists pioneered modern body imagery, expressing female subjectivity and sexuality in paint. Valadon, Charmy and Vassilieff experimented with the male nude, Black female nude, pregnant nude and nude self-portrait, a genre which few artists tackled until half a century later. Painting Her Pleasure stands as the inaugural scholarly publication on Vassilieff in English, the first comprehensive exploration of Charmy’s nudes, and a novel analysis of Valadon’s unique approach to the male body. Contextualising the work of the three artists within and against modernism, drawing parallels with later feminist artists and philosophers, this interdisciplinary study unravels the complexities of early twentieth-century gender regimes and persistent cultural stereotypes, providing an illuminating history of women, sexuality and the body.
Sculpting a Life: Chana Orloff between Paris and Tel Aviv, by Paula J. Birnbaum. Publisher: Brandeis University Press, 2023.
In the first book-length biography of sculptor Chana Orloff (1888–1968), author Paula Birnbaum tells the story of a fiercely determined and ambitious woman who fled antisemitism in Ukraine, emigrated to Palestine with her family, then travelled to Paris to work in haute couture before becoming an internationally recognized artist. A major figure in the School of Paris, Orloff contributed to the canon of modern art alongside Picasso, Modigliani and Chagall. Stories from her unpublished memoir enrich this life story of courage, perseverance, and extraordinary artistic accomplishments that take us through the aftermath of the Holocaust when Orloff lived between Paris and Tel Aviv. This biography brings new perspectives and understandings to Orloff’s multiple identities as a cosmopolitan émigré, woman, and Jew.
Mary Wykeham: Surrealist out of the Shadows, by Silvano Levy. Publisher: Lund Humphries, 2023.
Detailing the biography of Mary Wykeham (1909–1996), analyzing her work, and sketching the development of her political and religious thought, Silvano Levy’s meticulous research reveals a surrealist oeuvre that is both innovative and poignant. In a sudden move that shocked the artist’s avant-garde circle, Mary became a nun and was forced by her superiors to give up her art. Wrestling with her creative instincts, she eventually defied the prohibitions placed on her and resumed painting until her death. Fixing a fascinating artist firmly within the story of modern art, this ground-breaking publication brings to light the work of a little-known figure who demands to be brought out of the shadows.
Read David Trigg’s review of the book for The Art Newspaper.
Taking A Stand: Käthe Kollwitz, With Interventions by Mona Hatoum, contributions by J. Beyer, J. Burckhardt, H. Fischer, F. Forster-Hahn, N. Kirchner, H. Mund. Publisher: Hirmer, 2023.
With her world-famous cycles of graphic works “A Weavers’ Revolt” and “Peasants’ War,” rare proofs and touching drawings and sculptures, the book covers the entire spectrum of Kollwitz’s creative work and shows all the facets of her masterly skills. The political dimension of her art becomes especially tangible through her posters. Interventions by the artist Mona Hatoum (b. 1952) underscore the enduring relevance of Kollwitz’s art. Hatoum produces works that revolve around issues of vulnerability, displacement, and the experience of conflict.
Women of Chinese Modern Art: Gender and Reforming Traditions in National and Global Spheres, 1900s–1930s, by Doris Sung. Publisher: De Gruyter, 2023.
This book offers the first comprehensive study of how women embroiderers, traditionalist calligraphers and painters—including Shen Shou, Wu Xingfen, Jin Taotao, and members of Chinese Women’s Society of Calligraphy and Painting—shaped the terrain of the modern art world and gender positioning during China’s important moments of social-cultural transformation from empire to republic. Drawing on a wealth of previously unexhibited artworks, rare artist’s monographs, women’s journals, personal narratives, diaries, and catalogs of international expositions, Doris Sung affirms women’s significant roles as guardian and innovator of traditionalist art forms for a modern nation. She also reveals their contribution to cultural diplomacy and revaluation of Chinese artistic heritage on the international stage in the early 20th century.
Jenny Saville, Edited by Sergio Risaliti. Publisher: Silvana Editorial, 2023.
This volume is dedicated to the work of Jenny Saville (Cambridge, 1970), one of the greatest contemporary painters and a leading voice on the international art scene.
Saville transcends the boundaries between figurative and abstract, between informal and gestural, managing to transfigure the chronicle into a universal image, which puts the human figure back at the centre of art history—huge, naked bodies, with a carnal physicality and oppressed by a weight that is more existential than material. Seville links up with the great European pictorial tradition in constant dialogue with the modernism of Willem de Kooning and Cy Twombly, and the portraiture of Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. Her artworks also draw a strong correlation with the masters of the Italian Renaissance, in particular with some of Michelangelo’s work. The volume includes a rich catalogue of paintings and drawings created by the artist from the 90s up to the present day.
Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art, by Lauren Elkin. Publisher: Macmillan, 2023.
In this dazzlingly original reassessment of women’s stories, bodies, and art, Lauren Elkin explores the ways in which feminist artists have taken up the challenge of their work and how they not only react against the patriarchy but redefine their own aesthetic aims. Encompassing a rich genealogy of work across the literary and artistic landscape, Elkin makes daring links between disparate points of reference—among them Julia Margaret Cameron’s photography, Kara Walker’s silhouettes, Vanessa Bell’s portraits, Eva Hesse’s rope sculptures, Carolee Schneemann’s body art, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s trilingual masterpiece DICTEE—and steps into the tradition of cultural criticism established by Susan Sontag, Hélène Cixous, and Maggie Nelson.
Unlocking Women’s Art, by P.L. Henderson. Publisher: Aurora Metro and Supernova Books.
Who were the pioneering female painters and who are the best contemporary women painters around today? Discover the historic, contemporary, and global landscapes of female painters in Unlocking Women’s Art. Dive into iconic movements (from Portraiture & Identity to The Avant Garde; The Nude to Landscape and Nature) and find out about the significance of female creativity. Challenge your existing views of women artists and look beyond Eurocentric ideas to learn about brilliant Indigenous and global artists of the past. The book includes over 20 interviews with contemporary painters, providing fascinating insights into their practices, themes and personal motivation. Full colour with dozens of new and original images of the featured women artists’ work.
Discovering Women Sculptors, Edited by Marjorie Trusted and Joanna Barnes. Publisher: PSSA Publishing, 2023.
This inspiring anthology casts a much-needed spotlight on Western women sculptors from the seventeenth to the late twentieth century. The range and quality of the sculpture they produced confirm the determination, resilience and inventiveness of these women. Contributions by leading scholars discuss the lives and work of numerous significant artists from across the globe, including Luisa Roldán, Harriet Hosmer, Marcello, Malvina Hoffman, Margaret Butler, Chana Orloff and Barbara Hepworth.
National Museum of Women in the Arts: Collection Highlights, Edited by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Publisher: Hirmer, 2023.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), Washington, DC, is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. Drawing from a collection that spans five centuries and includes artists from six continents, this publication spotlights new additions to the museum as well as longstanding highlights. Vibrant images present over 175 works from the museum’s collections, including key artworks by Louise Bourgeois, Lalla Essaydi, Frida Kahlo, Hung Liu, Clara Peeters, Faith Ringgold, Niki de Saint Phalle, Amy Sherald, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and many others. Thematic chapters weave connections across medium, genre, and time. Essays by museum curators and more than thirty guest artists and scholars illuminate the mission of NMWA and help readers discover great women artists.
Books by/with artists
This thirteenth volume in the Frick Diptych series focuses on a spectacular eighteenth-century pastel that recently entered the museum’s collection—Man in Pilgrim’s Costume by the celebrated Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. While the subject of the portrait may have recently embarked on a pilgrimage, it is more likely that he is simply wearing a costume related to the Venetian Carnival. Xavier F. Salomon’s illuminating essay is paired with a text by artist Nicolas Party reflecting on his relationship with the medium of pastel and the impact of Rosalba’s work on his own. In conjunction with this Diptych, Party created an ephemeral site-specific installation at Frick Madison, combining Rosalba’s portrait with a suite of pastel works of his own. Images of the installation are included in the book.
Looking at Mexico / Mexico Looks Back, by Janet Sternburg. Publisher: DISTANZ, 2023.
The writer, photographer, and philosopher Janet Sternburg (b. Boston, 1943; lives and works in Los Angeles and San Miguel de Allende) looks back at the land that spawned her love for photography; twenty-three years ago, she took her first photos in Mexico. In her new photo series, Sternburg looks at Mexico using low-tech cameras to create a poetic image of the country’s multifaceted culture. In 2022, Sternburg met Jose Alberto Romero Romano, a Mexican physical therapist. Accepting her invitation, both tell their stories of Mexican culture in the book. In addition to a deep cultural exchange, this book tells a story of two people with different backgrounds and memories seeking and finding a place of encounter through photography.
Deborah Roberts: Twenty Years of Art/Work, Artwork by Deborah Roberts, Foreword by Dawoud Bey, Texts by Carolyn Jean Martin, and Ekow Eshun. Publisher: Radius Books, 2023.
Deborah Roberts: 20 Years of Art/Work provides the definitive look at the artist’s practice over the past two decades. With newly commissioned texts and a thorough dive into Roberts’ archive, this monograph offers a comprehensive view of one of today’s most significant artists and social observers. An extensive plate section is accompanied by a personal, heartfelt foreword from Dawoud Bey on “the tragic mischaracterization of Black children”; an insightful essay from Ekow Eshun on the social and political histories of innocence, race, and the fractured nature of the contemporary Black experience; a celebratory tribute from Carolyn Jean Martin on the musicality, humility, and generosity of Roberts’ practice; and a free-ranging conversation between Roberts and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis.
First Meal, by Julie Green and Kirk Johnson. Publisher: Oregon State University Press, 2023.
Food and punishment have long been intertwined. The tradition of offering a condemned person a final meal before execution, for example, has been explored by psychologists, filmmakers, and others—including Green herself in an earlier series of criminal-justice themed paintings, The Last Supper. First Meal takes on that issue from the other side: food as a symbol of autonomy in a life restored. In Green’s art, state birds and surreal lobsters soar over places where wrongful convictions unfolded, mistaken witnesses shout their errors, glow-in-the-dark skylines evoke homecoming. Johnson’s essays take us inside those moments—from the courtrooms where things went wrong to the pathways of faith and resilience that kept people sane through their years of injustice.
Making Her Mark: A History of Women Artists in Europe, 1400–1800, Edited by Andaleeb Badiee Banta and Alexa Greist with Theresa Kutasz Christensen. Publisher: Goose Lane Editions with the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Baltimore Museum of Art, 2023.
Gathering together just over 250 objects—including paintings, prints, scientific illustrations, textiles, sculpture, metalwork and furniture—Making Her Mark illuminates the astonishing diversity and breadth of women’s contributions to art of the pre-modern era (c. 1400–1800). In this important re-examination of early modern European art, an international team of scholars and curators assess the critical concepts that have shaped Western culture’s understanding of what constitutes great art. In its recalibration of gender imbalances, this impressive volume offers an alternative view of the history of European art and sheds light on the collaborative nature of the creation of individual works and the interconnected histories of literature, politics, religion, science, and economics.
Harriet Backer: Every Atom is Colour, Edited by Tove Haugsbø, Vibeke Waallann Hansen, and Kristian Wikborg Wiese. Publisher: Hirmer, 2023.
Harriet Backer (1845–1932) was one of Norway’s most prominent painters of the 19th century and a pioneer among women artists in Europe. In 1880, she debuted in the Paris Salon and lived in Munich and Paris. Back in Oslo, she established a successful school for painters. Harriet Backer’s richly coloured interior scenes, sensitive portrayals of simple rural life, her portraits and still lifes are characterised by plein-air painting, realism and Impressionism. Her works stand out, not only in Norway, but also in the European context, when it comes to originality, scope and quality. Highlighting her artistic achievements and placing her oeuvre in the European context, this book presents Backer to an international audience, restoring her to her rightful place in art history.
Marie Laurencin: Sapphic Paris, Edited by Simonetta Fraquelli and Cindy King. Publisher: Barnes Foundation, 2023.
This book offers a long-overdue reassessment of the career of the Parisian-born artist Marie Laurencin (1883–1956), who moved seamlessly between the Cubist avant-garde and lesbian literary and artistic circles, as well as the realms of fashion, ballet, and decorative arts. Critical essays explore her early experiments with Cubism; her exile in Spain during World War I; her collaborative projects with major figures of her time such as André Mare, Serge Diaghilev, Francis Poulenc, and André Groult; and her role in the emergence of a “Sapphic modernity” in Paris in the 1920s. Along with more than 60 full-color plates, Laurencin’s life and career are documented through an illustrated chronology and exhibition history, as well as an appendix charting her network of female patrons and associates.
Camille Claudel, Edited by Emerson Bowyer and Anne-Lise Desmas. Publisher: Getty Publications, 2023.
Camille Claudel (1864–1943) was among the most daring and visionary sculptors of the late nineteenth century. Although much attention has been paid to her tumultuous life—her affair with her mentor, Auguste Rodin; the premature end to her career; her thirty-year institutionalization in an asylum—outside of France her art remains little known. Memorably praised by critic Octave Mirbeau in 1895 as “a revolt of nature: a woman of genius,” Claudel was celebrated for her brilliance during a time when women sculptors were rare. Featuring more than two hundred photographs along with contributions from leading experts, this publication accompanies the first comprehensive survey of Claudel’s oeuvre in nearly forty years.
Dorothea Lange: Seeing People, by Philip Brookman, Sarah Greenough, Andrea Nelson and Laura Wexler with Nana Adwoa Nyamekye Ferdnance, Elizabeth Fortune and Kyra March. Publisher: Yale University Press in association with the National Gallery of Art, 2023.
Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) aimed to make pictures that were, in her words, “important and useful.” Her sensitive portraits showing the common humanity of often marginalized people were pivotal to public understanding of vast social problems in the twentieth century. Compassion guided Lange’s early portraits of Indigenous people in Arizona and New Mexico from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as her depictions of striking workers, migrant farmers, rural African Americans, Japanese Americans in internment camps, and the people she met while traveling in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Drawing on new research, the authors look at Lange’s roots in studio portraiture and demonstrate how her influential and widely seen photographs addressed issues of identity as well as social, economic, and racial inequalities—topics that remain as relevant for our times as they were for hers.
Kim Lim: Space, Rhythm and Light, Edited by Abi Shapiro. Publisher: Lund Humphries, 2023.
Sculptor and printmaker Kim Lim (1936–1997) had a lifelong fascination with space and its relationship with two- and three-dimensions. This important new publication explores her outstanding body of work; leading art-world specialists survey the artist’s rich career and legacy across four decades. Exploring Lim’s profound contribution to the development of modern British abstract art, contributors question her marginalization in the histories of sculpture since her death. Through reproductions of Lim’s work in wood, metal, stone and paper, the artist’s shape-shifting oeuvre, which continually probed relationships between space, light and form, is rightfully brought center stage. Including discussion of Lim’s Asian heritage and its connection to her work, this publication is essential reading for all those seeking new perspectives on both Lim and British art history more broadly.
Similar Art Herstory posts:
Ten Intriguing Books About Remarkable Women Artists, a guest post by Carol M. Cram