The Mirror and the Palette: Rebellion, Revolution, and Resilience; Five Hundred Years of Women’s Self Portraits

Pegasus. Oct. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781643138039. $27.95. FINE ARTS
In this volume, London-based Australian art critic Higgie examines self-portraits by women artists from the Western tradition, grouped thematically. She first establishes that women have historically struggled to be socially accepted as artists; forbidden to draw from models in art schools, women artists often turned to themselves as subjects. Then she turns to the self-portraits—some by well-known painters (Frida Kahlo; Alice Neel), but many by artists are little known outside their own countries. Themes include self-portraits of the artist at her easel (Italian Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola); allegorical self-portraits (Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi); and self-portraits by painters who thrived on solitude (20th-century English artist Gwenn John; Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck; Australian artist Nora Heyson). The chapter “Translation” features 20th-century artists (Australian Margaret Preston; New Zealander Rita Angus; Hungarian Indian Amrita Sher-Gil) whose works attempted to reconcile the Western European pictorial language of modernism with the native artistic traditions of their countries.
VERDICT This engaging and accessible book is recommended for anyone interested in women artists, but readers will need to have another reference source nearby, as images are limited to one or two reproductions per artist.
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