Women artists have been painting self-portraits since the 12th century but, notes Borzello, a specialist in the social history of art, the genre has received surprisingly little attention. Her thorough, lucid study goes a long way toward providing a remedy for that oversight. Women artists have painted themselves for the same reasons as male artists—to call attention to their skills, to emulate the self-portraits of past masters, to express elements not appropriate to other kinds of subject matter, such as wit or a sharp sense of social criticism, and to boldly announce particular beliefs about art. But they have also done so for some unique reasons: to claim a place among serious artists, to explore the often peculiar status of women in Western societies, and to examine the issue of feminine beauty. Borzello traces women's self-portraits across eight centuries, deftly weaving together art and social history, the biographies of many women artists, and a wide selection of paintings, prints, and photographs by women. While some of the pieces are primarily of historical interest, there are some stunning works here, including period works by such accomplished painters as Artemisia Gentileschi and Rosalba Carriera and modern works by such little known but talented painters as Zinaida Serebryakova and Lotte Laserstein, and paintings by such familiar figures as Frida Kahol and Paula Modersohn-Racker. A fascinating monograph, and a particularly useful contribution to both women's studies and art history.
Read full book review >