Art, Books

ArtReview: Discover Her Art

Discover her Art: Women Artists and Their Masterpieces is the book by Jean Leibowitz and Lisa LaBanca Rogers. Leibowitz is a portrait and landscape painter, she uses the traditional painting and drawing approaches in her art. LaBanca Rogers is an elementary school librarian and an author who regularly writes about art and artists for various magazine publications.

The book presents 24 professional women artists by exploring their paintings, they are from different backgrounds, periods and style that range from painstakingly realistic to wildly abstract. The book teaches about the artist’s painting techniques, but also includes some of the challenges they had to reach success. Some names included in the book are: Indian artist Amrita Sher-Gil, her paintings have been officially named national treasures by India government; or French painter Rosa Bonheur, who due to her popularity, had a doll crafted in her likeness.

However, only few people can name more than five women artists, or recognise their work. As I have explained in several posts, this happens because many museums do not include the work of women in their permanent exhibitions/collections, as well as they are absent of the majority of the art history books.

This book tries to bring us closer to women artists from 16th to 20th centuries, with the book we are able not only to explore their works, but also study their composition, perspective, using of colours techniques in a way that will allow you, in case you are an artist, to try all the techniques in your own work.

In the introductory chapter, the book provides a very helpful art vocabulary for those who are not artists, or have a limited knowledge in art, in which explains in very simple and direct way, terms such as representation, abstraction, colours, composition, forms and shapes, value, and perspective. And if you have some supplies handy (like pencil, eraser, ruler, and tracing paper) you will easily follow the suggestions about composition, since in several chapters you will be looking for midpoints, and diagonals them without marking up the painting.

The book is divided in two parts, one dedicated to the classical and realistic painting, and the other to the modern paintings. With the book we will examine a painting from each artist, and learn about their successes, challenges, and art techniques. Artists from around the globe like Amrita Sher-Gil of India, Rosa Bonheur of France, and Angel De Cora from the Winnebago Tribe in America, will be introduced to young readers. And children will also have lots of fun with the activities throughout the book experimenting with negative space, exploring contrast techniques, and more.

First part: Classical paintings and other Realistic styles

In this first part we are introduced to the lives and works of artists such as Lavinia Fontana, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rachel Ruysch, Adelaïde Labille-Guiard, Rosa Bonheur, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Cecilia Beaux, Lluïsa Vidal, Angel de Cora. And it counts with three proposed activities at the end of the chapters four, five, and six.

At the end of the first chapter, that is about Lavinia Fontana and the study of her painting Portrait of a Lady with a Dog (1590s), you will find a little text entitled Ten ways to build your art skills, in which is explained how the artists could use the book to improve their skills.

Second part: Modern Painting

The second part is about the modern art, and it starts introducing us to the work of Suzanne Valadon, and Paula Modersohn-Becker, and it counts with seven proposed activities in which the reader/artist can use to improve the art techniques of their own work.

Other artists remembered in this section are: Angelina Beloff, Tarsila do Amaral, Laura Wheeler Waring, Amrita Sher-Gil, Yuki Ogura, Loïs Mailou Jones, María Izquierdo, Amelia Peláez, María Leontina, Pan Yuliang, Alma Woodsey Thomas, Joan Mitchell.

And at the end of the book there is an appendix with value scale and the colour wheel.

Throughout the history of art, women have been creating, but their names and works are often not recognised by the public. I like very much the idea of having a book such as Discover Her Art that aspires to fix this by presenting children with 24 outstanding women artists with very different backgrounds, styles and periods that in most of the cases have been forgotten by art history.

Highly recommended!

References:

  • Leibowitz, J. LaBanca Rogers, L. 2022. Discover her Art: Women Artists and Their Masterpieces. Chicago Review Press. Chicago, USA.

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