Seeing Ourselves (Hardcover)

By Frances Borzello

Harry N. Abrams, 9780810941885, 224pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 1998



This fresh, richly illustrated book is the first in-depth presentation of how women artists have chosen to picture themselves. As Frances Borzello demonstrates, the number and variety of women's self-portraits are astonishing, as are the brashness and timidity, the pride and wit, and the intense emotions that stare out from these pages.

Beginning with the self-portraits of nuns in medieval illuminated manuscripts, Borzello reconstructs an overlooked genre and provides essential contextual information on the artists. She moves on to 16th-century Italy, where Sofonisba Anguissola recorded her features from adolescence to old age. Later, women from Artemisia Gentileschi (who depicted herself as the personification of painting) to Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun conveyed, each in their own way, ambition, ideas of femininity, and passion for their chosen field.

Seeing Ourselves concludes with the breaking of taboos in the 20th century. Alice Neel's nude self-portrait at the age of 80, Frida Kahlo pierced with nails like a female St. Sebastian, and Cindy Sherman's repeated transformations of herself each address the questions that all the women in this enthralling book faced when "seeing" themselves.