cover image Brushed Aside: The Untold Story of Women in Art

Brushed Aside: The Untold Story of Women in Art

Noah Charney. Rowman & Littlefield, $45 (232p) ISBN 978-153-817099-1

In this breezy and illuminating survey, art historian Charney (The Devil in the Gallery) spotlights female artists, patrons, curators, influencers, critics, scholars, models, and muses who shaped the art world. He notes that women are thought to have created 75% of cave handprints, making them some of “the very oldest painters in history,” while Catharina van Hemessen (1528–1565) was the first person to paint a self-portrait of an artist at work. Louise Jopling (1843–1933), the first woman admitted to the Royal Society of British Artists, was “as important a political figure as she was a painter” and campaigned for women’s right to vote; sculptor Augusta Savage (1892–1962) established in 1932 New York City the first art studio helmed by a “prominent artist” that enrolled Black students. Meanwhile, untrained artist and mother-of-five Janet Sobel (1893–1968) pioneered drip painting—preceding Jackson Pollock’s use of the method—though she was often overlooked by art critics who derisively cast her as a “Brooklyn housewife.” While some entries are rather cursory (art collector Peggy Guggenheim, for instance, occupies only one page), those seeking an accessible introduction to women’s art history will be pleased by Charney’s lucid prose and faithful renderings of these often-overlooked figures both as artists and as unique, distinctive personalities. It’s worth checking out. (Oct.)