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A dazzlingly original and ambitious work of art history, intertwining biography and cultural history, and packed with tales of rebellion, adventure, revolution, travel and tragedy

 

Her story weaves in and out of time and place. She's Frida Kahlo, Lois Mailou Jones and Amrita Sher-Gil en route to Mexico City, Paris or Bombay. She's Suzanne Valadon and Gwen John, craving city lights, the sea and solitude; she's Artemisia Gentileschi striding through the streets of Naples and Paula Modersohn-Becker in Worpswede. She's haunting museums in her paint-stained dress, scrutinising how El Greco or Titian or Van Dyck or Cezanne solved the problems that she too is facing. She's railing against her corsets, her chaperones, her husband and her brothers; she's hammering on doors, dreaming in her bedroom, working day and night in her studio. Despite the immense hurdles that have been placed in her way, she sits at her easel, picks up a mirror and paints a self-portrait because, as a subject, she is always available.

Until the twentieth century, art history was, in the main, written by white men who tended to write about other white men. The idea that women in the West have always made art was rarely cited as a possibility. Yet they have - and, of course, continue to do so - often against tremendous odds, from laws and religion to the pressures of family and public disapproval.

In THE MIRROR AND THE PALETTE, Jennifer Higgie introduces us to a cross-section of women artists who embody the fact that there is more than one way to understand our planet, more than one way to live in it and more than one way to make art about it. Spanning 500 years, biography and cultural history intertwine in a narrative packed with tales of rebellion, adventure, revolution, travel and tragedy enacted by women who turned their back on convention and lived lives of great resilience, creativity and bravery. This is a dazzlingly original and ambitious book by one of the most well-respected art critics at work today.

 

Details

ISBN: 9781474613774
Audience: General
Format: Hardback
Number of Pages: 336
Publication Date: 30 Mar 2021
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Dimensions (cm): 23.6(H) x 16.2(L) x 3.4(W)
Weight (gm): 584

 

Reviews

A bewitching, invigorating history of women artists, the work they've made and the impossibly hard conditions in which it was produced. I can't think of a more satisfying riposte to anyone who asks why there have been no great women artists than to present them with this incandescent book -- OLIVIA LAING
An uplifting and dazzling tour through history . . . a breakout book that shifts the spotlight onto the names that the art world has painted over. It's illuminating and essential reading * STYLIST *
Sumptuous as well as fascinating -- Rachel Cooke * OBSERVER *
Joyous . . . As Jennifer Higgie argues in this fine, haunting book, women have always made art, despite the discouragement lobbed in their path. The Mirror and the Palette is a redress, and vividly done - so much so that it rustles with the women's presence. You feel them standing behind you, expectant . . . A revelatory study -- Lucy Davies * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH *
Jennifer Higgie puts female artists centre stage with this fascinating biography looking at 500 years of self-portraits * THE i NEWSPAPER *
A fascinating survey of women's self-portraits from the Renaissance to the 20th century. . . Extraordinary * DAILY MAIL *
This engrossing book sheds new light on forgotten and disregarded female artists throughout history - and about time too . . . an absorbing story of women's art made in the European tradition -- Nancy Durrant * EVENING STANDARD *
The stories told by the lives of these women artists and the self-portraits they made comprise a history as compelling as it is shocking. The verve and clarity of Higgie's writing and the range of her research combine to position THE MIRROR AND THE PALETTE as a future classic of art history -- MICHAEL BRACEWELL
Higgie's book is a riposte to Renoir and centuries of unknowing and misjudging. Reading it is like travelling with an ever-excited companion who has lots to say . . . always compelling * LITERARY REVIEW *
[An] illuminating new study on why women have been largely shut out of art history. Higgie's clever thesis looks at self-portraits as a springboard, giving fresh insights into brilliant artists such as Frida Kahlo, Lois Mailou Jones, Amrita Sher-Gil, Suzanne Valadon, Gwen John, Artemisia Gentileschi and Paula Modersohn-Becker * THE ART NEWSPAPER *
The Mirror and the Palette reminded me immediately of the best kind of Antonia Fraser reading experience: knowledgeable and richly researched but written with an intuitive, sympathetic eye for the most humanising details of personalities we know only as cultural icons, or not at all. Higgie's own quiet but persistent presence as a reader and a looker in these sinuous little biographies is also the courage of the researcher who really cares about her subject and can turn dry information into the kind of compulsive read that makes you wish you had your daily commute back -- NIAMH CAMPBELL, author of THIS HAPPY
Superbly researched and elegantly written . . . a fascinating study in the defiant and determined creativity of women that was so lamentably actively erased by official art histories . . . gloriously readable and deeply intelligent -- GRISELDA POLLOCK
A lively and edifying read * BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE *
In The Mirror and the Palette Jennifer Higgie celebrates 20 women artists who defied the odds and broke taboos to present themselves, and their female perspective on the times they lived in, to the world * CHRISTIES *

 

Author Biography

JENNIFER HIGGIE is an Australian writer who lives in London. She has a BA in Fine Art from the Canberra School of Art, and a MA from Victoria College of the Arts, Melbourne; her paintings are in various public and private collections in Australia. Previously the editor of frieze magazine, she is now frieze editor-at-large and the presenter of Bow Down, a podcast about women in art history. She is also a screenwriter, the editor of a collection of writings on art and humour THE ARTIST'S JOKE, a novel, BEDLAM, and a children's book, THERE'S NOT ONE.
The Mirror and the Palette: Rebellion, Revolution and Resilience: 500 Years of Women's Self-Portraits
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