When the art historian Horst Waldemar Janson’s History of Art was first published in 1962, the book—which has since become the definitive art history textbook in the West—did not name a single female artist. The omission was not rectified until the 1986 edition was released.
In recognition of that historical imbalance, Phaidon has teamed up with Kering, the parent company of Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and other luxury brands, to release Great Women Artists, a massive volume illustrating the artistic genius of 400 women (whittled down from an initial list of 1,000 names) representing more than 50 countries.
The book takes its title from Linda Nochlin’s famed essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Her 1971 text, now a staple of college art history courses, examines the societal conditions that have led to the male domination of the art world. But by crossing out the word women on the book’s cover, Phaidon asks readers to consider the book’s subjects as artists first and foremost.
Billed as “the most extensive fully illustrated book of women artists ever published,” Great Women Artists celebrates female artistic genius across the centuries, with artists from 500 years of art history included. Organized alphabetically, the book includes a brief biography of each artist alongside an example of her work.
Included in the publication are A-listers like Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, Diane Arbus, Yayoi Kusama, and Kara Walker, as well as less familiar figures, such as Constance Marie Charpentier, a French artist who lived from 1767 to 1849. Readers will also be introduced to emerging names including Tschabalala Self, born in 1990. The publication makes the case that all of them have earned a place in the canon alongside their better-known male counterparts.
In conjunction with the book, Phaidon and Artspace are releasing a charitable portfolio of limited-edition prints that will benefit Promundo-US, a nonprofit that works to promote gender justice.
See some of the works included in the book below.
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