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Seeing Ourselves

Women’s Self-Portraits

Frances Borzello


‘Splendid … a tour de force … Its lucid prose, evocative illustrations and handsome production make it a joy to read and savour’ Times Higher Education


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 this inspiring book.

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'A landmark study'
Daily Telegraph

'A cornucopia of the weird, the chilling and the sublime … lucid and unexpectedly compelling … fantastic'

'Beautifully presented … invites us to consider women’s self-portraiture as a genre in its own right … invaluable'
Times Literary Supplement

The Times

'Books of this high calibre are few and far between in feminist art history … Written in elegant prose that will draw in even casual readers, it bears a wealth of new material'
Library Journal

'Borzello, always interesting and pertinent, is a wake-up call which makes the reader aware of how much they may have been missing'
Mature Times

'So good, so lavishly illustrated, and so mind-bendingly expansive that I own two copies of it. The first of these is battered, spine-cracked. The other, pristine, I reserve for swooning over'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 272 pp

Publication date: 11 January 2018

ISBN: 9780500294024

Contents List

1. In the Beginning: The Sixteenth Century • 2. The New Self-Confidence: The Seventeenth Century • 3. Professionals and Amateurs: The Eighteenth Century • 4. The Opening Door: The Nineteenth Century • 5. Breaking Taboos: The Twentieth Century • 6. Feminism and After: Towards the Contemporary

About the Author

Frances Borzello has specialized in the social history of art since obtaining her PhD at the University of London.