'They held to their own visions at all costs.'
dealt with as the "deliberate dilettantes,"
not for any lack of sincerity in their work,
but for "their eccentricities, their reluctance to exhibit, and their absence of
identification with any school of painting." They held to their own visions at all
In the avant-garde group, the biographical sketches point up the artists' deep
identification with contemporary art
movements and also their relationships
with male artists. Briefly sketched are the
associations of Carrington and Mark Gert-
ler, Gabriele Munter and Wassily Kandin-
sky, Sonia and Robert Delauney, who together invented Orphism, and Paula
Modersohn Becker and Otto Modersohn.
Kathe Kollwitz merits the title "giant
of our century" with her work that sought
to relate the artist to society, the personal
to the political. She survived the struggle
to balance the demands of her family and
her art by achieving the difficult perspective that "as you, the children of my body,
have been my tasks, so too are my other
works." Her posters were effective tools
of political education calling attention to
the needs of her people. Hunger, alcoholism, abortion, the need for children's
playgrounds, worker safety and aid to
Russia were all issues she dealt with, producing inexpensive prints so that workers
could afford them.
The contemporary section, due to the
limited compass of the book, focuses on a
small number of examples from Surrealism (a special treat in this section is the
selection of works by Remedios Varos,
reproduced for the first time in an English
text), Abstraction, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Photo Realism and
The focus of Feminist Art is on sharing. Judy Chicago's abstract but "openly
subject-matter oriented" images make
concrete political statements; Miriam
Schapiro combines architectonic forms
with patterned fabrics and makes her own
personal statement about the interaction
between feminism and art; and Mary Beth
Edelson's Blood Mysteries seeks to involve
the viewer as participant in a kind of ongoing creation of the work. It is the isolation felt by women artists that gives this
need to share, to reach out, its significance.
Among the 330 illustrations are twenty-
seven telling self-portraits; images that are
like mirrors into the past, and at the same
time, reflections of ourselves. From Artemisia Gentileschi to Therese Schwartze,
women painted themselves at their work.
It is a source of strength to identify with
these women who portrary themselves,
brushes in hand, working at their art,
proudly proclaiming their own identity.
For artists such as Kathe Kollwitz, Paula
Modersohn-Becker, and Suzanne Valadon,
self-portraiture was a means of self-exploration. Frida Kahlo expressed her most intimate concerns powerfully through self-
portraiture, and made it her oeuvre.
An appendix recounts the achievements
of women artists of China from 3000 B.C.
when the legendary Yellow Emperor's
consort invented and taught to the people
the techniques of spinning, dyeing and
weaving silk, through the lineage of great
calligraphers, to the social realism of the
WOMEN ARTISTS does not attempt
to relate the works of women to those of
men in corresponding periods or to make
formal analyses of the works. What Petersen and Wilson have given us is an invaluable insight into our artistic heritage and
into the lives of each of these women—
their strengths, their weaknesses, their
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