Thames and Hudson

Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self


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Frances Borzello
230mm x 157mm

This richly diverse exploration of female artists and self-portraits is a brilliant and poignant demonstration of originality in works of haunting variety. The two earliest self-portraits come from 12th-century illuminated manuscripts in which nuns gaze at us across eight centuries. In 16th-century Italy, Sofonisba Anguissola paints one of the longest series of self-portraits, spanning adolescence to old age. In 17th-century Holland, Judith Leyster shows herself at the easel as a relaxed, self-assured professional. In the 18th century, artists from Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun to Angelica Kauffman express both passion for their craft and the idea of femininity; and in the 19th the salons and art schools at last open their doors to a host of talented women artists, including Berthe Morisot, ushering in a new and resonant self-confidence. The modern period demolishes taboos: Alice Neel painting herself nude at eighty, Frida Kahlo rendering physical pain, Cindy Sherman exploring identity, Marlene Dumas dispensing with all boundaries.

The full verve of Frances Borzello's enthralling text, and the hypnotic intensity of the accompanying self-portraits, is revealed to the full in this inspiring book.

This is a new softcover edition. Includes works by Cindy Sherman, Marlene Dumas, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and begins with the self-portraits of nuns in medieval illuminated manuscripts. Borzello reconstructs an overlooked genre and provides essential contextual information on the artists. She moves on to 16th-century Italy, where Sofonisba Anguissola recorded her features from adolescence to old age. Later, women from Artemisia Gentileschi (who depicted herself as the personification of painting) to Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun conveyed, each in their own way, ambition, ideas of femininity, and passion for their chosen field.