With much of history, women are usually left out of the story—but not in these excellent books about the women of art history. From a tragic Baroque painter and the letters of Frida Kahlo to the powerful street art by a woman who was sick and tired of street harassment, we’ve covered the gamut of art history from the women’s perspective. Get ready for some powerful life stories and some stunningly gorgeous art.
by Mary Gabriel
Mary Gabriel's Ninth Street Women is the wild and sometimes tragic story of five women artists who dared to fight the patriarchy and join the male-dominated world of twentieth-century abstract painting. One crucial point: They were there to be artists, not muses. These five women—Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler—are some of the coolest women of art history who changed the worlds of art and society in America. They were pioneers who revolutionized the modern art world in postwar America, paving the way for more women to follow in their footsteps.
Street harassment, meet street portraits. In Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's Stop Telling Women to Smile, read up on the demeaning act of catcalling that women experience on the daily. The solution, according to generations of advice, is to ignore it, shrug it off, or take it as a compliment. But it is not a compliment. It introduces shame and fear of going anywhere alone. Fazlalizadeh has been creating powerful murals against street harassment and this book is the latest in her act of resistance.
Bridget Quinn; Lisa Congdon (Illustrator)
Major women artists tend to be left out of the major art discussions. Thanks, patriarchy. Art historian Bridget Quinn's Broad Strokes flips the perspective and corrects history by focusing only on the women, from 1600 to present day. In fun and feisty language, learn about 15 important women artists and their works, alongside gorgeously illustrated contemporary portraits of each artist by the fabulous illustrator Lisa Congdon.
by Harry Davis
Tasha Tudor was a beloved children's books author and illustrator. In The Art of Tasha Tudor, Harry Davis gives an overview of Tudor's life and work, showcasing 150 pieces of art. Her illustrations spanned from her popular children's books to holiday cards and fashion designs.
Jeffreen M. Hayes; Kirsten Pai Buick (Contribution by); Bridget R. Cooks (Contribution by)
Augusta Savage was an influential sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance. She was born in Florida but left for New York to pursue her art. She overcame poverty, racism, and sexual discrimination to open her own studio and offer free art classes in the city. She later co-founded the Harlem Artists' Guild and was director of the Harlem Community Art Center, always guiding more people toward the beauty of art. This book contains her life story paired with some of her best-known works.
Art critic and historian Jonathan Jones dives deep into the life story of Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the greatest women artists of the Baroque age. When she was a young woman, she was raped by her tutor, and when she accused him, she was subject to brutal examinations by authorities. In a culture where honor is the most important thing for a woman, Gentileschi was shamed for her rape. Her art, then, portrayed a powerful vision representing her life. This book is a brief biography of the artist, rather than the art, and features some key pieces of her work.
Frida Kahlo is one of Mexico’s greatest painters, with a signature style and beautiful life story. In You Are Always With Me, read the candid, handwritten letters she wrote to her mother, translated from Spanish by Héctor Jaimes. The letters began in 1923 when Kahlo was 16, and continued until her mother died in 1932. She told her mother about her life, her marriage, and her art, with humor and honesty. The book includes photographs and paintings alongside Kahlo’s loving letters.
What to Read Next
Ashley Holstrom is a book person, designing them and writing about them for Book Riot. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color.