More Than Muses

In the 1980s the American pressure group Guerilla Girls protested against sexism in art, calling themselves ‘the conscience of the art world’. Why were less than 5% of the artists in the New York Met’s modern art wing female but 85% of the nudes in the artworks, despite all the lobbying of female art historians in the previous decade? The Dutch pressure group The Art Girls picks up where they left off and traces in this book the changes in the art world that have given women artists their rightful place.

Original title
Meer dan muze
De Kunstmeisjes

Names like Tracey Emin, Frida Kahlo and Paula Modersohn-Becker are no longer unfamiliar, but have you ever heard of Elisabetta Sirani, Katsushika Ōi, Marlow Moss or Romaine Brooks? Elisabetta Sirani created the first artist’s training for women, Katsushika Ōi (ca. 1800-ca. 1866) didn’t care what society expected of her and pounded out her own course. Non-binary artists Marlow Moss (1889-1958) and Romaine Brooks (1874-1970) uninhibitedly produced art that defied all expectations.

The book also tracks feminist artists such as Natalia LL (1937-2022), Adrian Piper (1948), Carolee Schneemann (1939-2019), Joan Semmel (1932), Maria Lassnig (1919-2014) and many others whose provocative artworks shook up society. Besides loud protest, it also covers silent devotion: from medieval nuns who were able to shape their artistic ideas without the brakes of marriage, to the spiritual inspirations of Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) that led to abstract works of art that were ahead of their time.

More Than Muses is about the lives and work of dozens of women who have enriched the art world. These women are highlighted through four themes: makers (about idiosyncratic artists), muses (about what and who inspired the women to create their artworks), social manoeuvres (about the sensational jumps they sometimes had to make over social barriers) and power (artists who questioned the status quo with their work, as well as patrons who made a difference).

After reading More Than Muses, you will no longer be able to look at the paintings of Jackson Pollock without being reminded of the equally fascinating works of his talented wife Lee Krasner (1908-1984) or fellow abstract-expressionist Hedda Sterne (1910-2011). You won’t be able to think of the roaring twenties of Paris without also immediately seeing Romaine Brooks peering out from under their top hat.

‘An upbeat book in which a variety of female artists through the ages pass in revue through short biographical sketches and anecdotes.’

De Kunstmeisjes
De Kunstmeisjes (The Art Girls), originally a trio, has grown into a collective of women – and yes, also one man – who have proudly crafted the most beautiful stories about the most extraordinary creators, collectors and other heroines in art.
Part ofNon-Fiction
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