Anne Robinson, Karen Saxby
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 a completely revised edition of this inspiring book.