Guided by Katy Hessel, art historian and founder of @thegreatwomenartists, discover the glittering paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola of the Renaissance, the radical work of Harriet Powers in the nineteenth-century United States and the artist who really invented the "readymade." Explore the Dutch Golden Age, the astonishing work of postwar artists in Latin America, and the women defining art in the 2020s. Have your sense of art history overturned and your eyes opened to many artforms often ignored or dismissed. From the Cornish coast to Manhattan, Nigeria to Japan, this is the history of art as it's never been told before.
Part revisionist history, part coffee-table book, part collective portrait, part archival treasure hunt, Hessel’s treatise covers the 1500s to the present in an attempt to make good on its title ... Efficiently introduces us to a mosaic of artists ... The result is an engaging but necessarily clipped perspective. Through her narrative form and focus on representation, Hessel’s lineage of milestones obscures both the political history behind women’s exclusion from the canon and the possibility of struggle against it ... But although her index of names succeeds in providing some answer to the question posed in Linda Nochlin’s trailblazing 1971 essay 'Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,' Hessel does less than Nochlin did, 50 years ago, to unsettle the terms of the question itself. Can inserting women into the art-historical canon interrupt the system of canonization itself? Why does Hessel rely on the same methods of archival organization — linear history, market-based tastes, distinct genre boundaries — that played a part in producing women’s very exclusion? ... No book could repair those wrongs — but especially not one that remains concerned with indexing and inclusivity, rather than with a broader and more fervent social critique.
Mapping women along a loose timeline, Hessel covers huge swaths of history in lively, lucid prose, positioning these artists within (or against) dominant genres. She documents not just what they created but also the obstacles they surmounted in doing so ... Almost every piece Hessel references appears in a photo, most in color and some in luscious, two-page spreads ... Hessel’s sweeping (though Western-heavy) 500-year-history is free of both academic jargon and essentialist rhetoric ... But in her (generally effective) effort to condense, Hessel occasionally drops key plot points ... Even so, what Hessel achieves here is extraordinary ... [A] spellbinding book.
[A] positive, beautifully written corrective, which should become a founding text in the history of art by women ... Brings centuries-old figures to life while giving form and gravitas to emergent voices and covering every substantial movement from dadaism to civil-rights-era antiracist art along the way ... It is thick with fascinating details, so that even readers who pride themselves on being exhibition hounds, art historians and gallery hoppers will discover new names ... Hessel balances her research with an easy, intimate approach to each artist’s work, combining a sense of their historical significance with an extraordinary ability to encapsulate their unique style ... Inspiring and indispensable.