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Five new books on female artists that you should read now

Jacqueline Riding—The Art Newspaper's new Books commissioning editor—gives us her top tips, from important catalogues on artists like Paula Rego to a series of children's books for young art lovers

Jacqueline Riding

The Art Newspaper welcomes Jacqueline Riding as its new Books commissioning editor. Riding, who specialises in British history and art of the long 18th century, was formerly a curator at the Palace of Westminster and director of the Handel House museum in the early 2000s. She has published several books, including Basic Instincts: Love, Passion and Violence in the Art of Joseph Highmore (2017), Peterloo: the Story of the Manchester Massacre (2018) and, most recently, Hogarth: Life in Progress (2021). She was also an adviser on Mike Leigh’s feature films, Mr Turner (2014) and Peterloo (2018). Below, Riding has selected five of her favourite new books on women artists.

Artists: My First Artists (Little People, Big Dreams) (2021) by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Lisbeth Kaiser

Artists: My First Artists (Little People, Big Dreams) (2021) by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Lisbeth Kaiser

“As a child I read Ladybird books, with the Great Artists series (Leonardo, Michelangelo, etc.) a favourite. In the 1980s my mum collected the weekly Marshall Cavendish magazine of the same title, filling eight binders. Even as Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock’s groundbreaking Old Mistresses (1981) was transforming art history, few if any in the Great Artists series were women. Now, courtesy of these delightful books, three-year-olds are introduced to Louise Bourgeois, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe—and many more to come.”

Artemisia (2020) by Letizia Treves, et al.

Artemisia (2020) by Letizia Treves, et al.

“This is a beautiful book accompanying a wonderful exhibition that closed in 2021. The reproductions of the three self-portraits as St Catherine are alone worth the purchase: in Artemisia Gentileschi’s own words, ‘I will show your illustrious lordship what a woman can do.’” 

Paula Rego (2021), edited by Elena Crippa

Paula Rego (2021), edited by Elena Crippa

“I was introduced to Paula Rego’s brilliance when I worked at the Tate in the early 1990s and my leaving gift from Handel House was a Peter Pan etching. If your budget won’t stretch to Thames & Hudson’s mighty survey from 2019, then try this catalogue of the superb exhibition on at Tate Britain (until 24 October).” 

Lubaina Himid (2021), edited by Michael Wellen

Lubaina Himid (2021), edited by Michael Wellen

“As a Hogarth scholar and biographer I am immediately drawn to contemporary artists’ responses to his character and art. Like Paula Rego, Lubaina Himid has found particular inspiration in his ‘modern moral subjects’. As she says, ‘his theatricality and storytelling tableaux fulfilled my desire for spectacle and drama.’” 

Käthe Kollwitz: a survey of her work 1867-1945 (2022), edited by Hannelore Fischer

Käthe Kollwitz: a survey of her work 1867-1945 (2022), edited by Hannelore Fischer

“After the revelatory first volume on Luisa Roldán kicked off the Getty’s new Illuminating Women Artists series, the director of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Cologne, Hannelore Fischer, has put together what promises to be an extensive overview of the life and work of this powerful artist.”