cover image Women Who Read Are Dangerous

Women Who Read Are Dangerous

Stefan Bollmann, trans. from the German by Christine Shuttleworth. Abbeville, $21.95 (156p) ISBN 978-0-7892-1256-6

This concise survey of women readers as subjects in the visual arts touches on several periods and movements—the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, art nouveau, and modernism—and several artists, including Edward Hopper, Henri Matisse, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Suzanne Valadon. In the introduction, Bollmann (Women Who Write) gives a useful history of the issues surrounding women’s access to literature (reading was once said to cause illness, immorality, and early death) and attempts to explain why so many different artists have chosen to depict, occasionally in a negative light, this single act, “showing people in a state of deepest intimacy not intended for outsiders.” The book covers more than 270 works, but it’s not clear why some are absent (for example, Winslow Homer’s The New Novel). The passage accompanying each of the included works contains interesting descriptions and anecdotes concerning the piece and its cultural context. Bollmann’s collection is a clever investigation of the development of literacy and its continuing influence on both art and women’s rights. Illus. (Apr.)