Notable Books on Art and Artists

Recent volumes to expand your vision.
Books about art and artists

The Flowering: The Autobiography of Judy Chicago 

by Judy Chicago
Foreword by Gloria Steinem
Thames & Hudson

Book about art and artist Judy Chicago

This intimate and absorbing account of the life and work of the pioneering artist, feminist and activist is hard to put down. With her groundbreaking 1979 installation The Dinner Party, the colorful and often controversial Chicago turned the traditional household role of women on its head by creating a table for 39 remarkable women to bring attention to their achievements. Written in anticipation of her first retrospective, now at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, this personal story traces the artist’s career and highlights her determination to champion women.

Andre Kertész: Postcards from Paris 

edited by Elizabeth Siegel
Art Institute of Chicago

A perfect way to take an armchair tour of the City of Light, this compilation of all the known carte postale prints by the Hungarian-born photographer highlights his innovative contributions to photographic composition. One of the truly pivotal figures of photojournalism, Kertész (1894–1985) was born in Budapest to a middle-class Jewish family and emigrated to the United States in 1936. The volume features portraits and evocative views of Paris, along with essays exploring exile and the interwar art scene in Paris.

Letters to Camondo

by Edmund de Waal
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, has written 58 imaginary letters that tell the story of Jewish banker and art collector Count Moise de Camondo, who was born in Constantinople in 1860 and died in Paris in 1935.

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When his son, Nissim de Camondo, a pilot in the Aéronautique Militaire, died during World War I, Moise dedicated his house and collection of peerless French 18th-century art to his son’s memory, bequeathing it to France as the Musée Nissim de Camondo. Seven years after he died, his daughter, son-in-law, grandson and granddaughter were arrested and ultimately murdered in Auschwitz. A meditation on preservation and loss, Jewish achievement and antisemitism, the book also discusses the intertwined histories of the Camondo family and de Waal’s own relatives from the Franco-Russian Ephrussi banking dynasty.

Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York

by Alexander Nemerov
Penguin Press

Book about art and artist Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler was one of the 20th century’s most esteemed painters. This engrossing biography focuses on her life in postwar New York City as she came of age as an artist. Fresh out of college at the beginning of the 1950s, Frankenthaler moved back home to New York City to make her name and distinguish herself in a man’s world. By the end of the decade she had succeeded in establishing herself as an important American artist of the postwar period, creating some of the most daring paintings of her day. Acclaimed art historian Alexander Nemerov paints a vibrant portrait of this period in the Abstract Expressionist’s career, from her initial encounter with Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, to her first solo gallery show, to her relationship and subsequent breakup with esteemed critic Clement Greenberg.

The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France

by James McAuley
Yale University Press

This compellingly written tale tracks the interlinking histories of a group of vastly wealthy, assimilated French-Jewish families who acquired major art collections that they donated to the French state in the first half of the 20th century. Philanthropic and patriotic, the Reinachs, Cahen d’Anvers, Camondos and Rothschilds built houses brimming with splendid objects, but McAuley’s term “the house of fragile things” refers to the tenuousness of their French identity during the Holocaust era. They were robbed by the government they had believed in, stripped of their French citizenship and attacked as aliens.

Man Ray: The Artist and His Shadows

by Arthur Lubow
Yale University Press

Book about art and artist Man Ray

In this revealing biography of the elusive Dada and Surrealist artist and photographer, journalist Arthur Lubow uses Man Ray’s Jewish background as a path to understanding his life and art. Man Ray began life as Emmanuel Radnitzky, the eldest of four children born in Philadelphia to a mother from Minsk and a father from Kiev who both worked as tailors. Defying his parents’ expectations that he earn a university degree, Ray instead pursued his vocation as an artist, embracing the modernist creed of photographer and avant-garde gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz.

Profusely Illustrated: A Memoir

by Edward Sorel
Knopf

Alongside more than 170 of his wavy pen-and-ink style drawings, cartoons and caricatures, award-winning American illustrator, graphic designer and political satirist Edward Sorel (born Edward Schwartz) paints a verbal portrait of his Depression-era Bronx childhood, his Jewish immigrant parents, his 1960s graphic design firm Push Pin Studios, and his marriages and children.

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