by Christina Weyl. Yale University Press, June 2019. 296 p. ill. ISBN 9780300238501 (h/c), $65.00.
Reviewed November 2019
Natalia Lonchyna, Librarian, North Carolina Museum of Art, firstname.lastname@example.org
With scholarship about women artists having been mostly neglected until the latter half of the twentieth century, it is rewarding to see the burgeoning literature on women in the arts, including this fascinating book on the women printmakers of Atelier 17. Set up by Stanley Hayter in 1927, the printmaking studio took its name from the second location on the street where Hayter lived, 17 rue de Campagne Première. When in 1940, Hayter left Paris for New York, he was able to continue Atelier 17, where artists gathered, made art, and exchanged ideas. We readily recognize the name of the male artists who frequented the studio throughout the years - Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, and others - but little is known of the more than hundred women who came through this studio and produced many fascinating works of their own.
The author reexamines the participation of these women printmakers through a feminist perspective. Two main themes encompass the narrative throughout, one concentrating on gender norms and complexities during the 1940s and 1950s, the other underlining the relationships between the known and unknown artists, their commercial success, and little or marginal critical acclaim.
The monograph is divided into five chapters. The first chapter speaks to the atmosphere of inclusiveness of women artists, such as Sue Fuller, Minna Citron, Dorothy Dehner and others at the Atelier. The second chapter embraces the challenges to the notion that women printmakers might not feel up to the physical strength and endurance needed for printmaking techniques, demonstrating that these women artists proved themselves many times over. Chapter three explores the language automatically imposed on women printmakers emphasizing the feminine, thus contributing to the idea that women are less accomplished in contrast to their male counterparts. These women artists have challenged the age-old argument of craft (homemade, feminine) versus fine art (innovative, masculine). Chapter four explores the experimental techniques that challenged the status quo of the conservative approach to printmaking. Artists, such as Worden Day and Minna Citron, use woodcut and etching respectively to express their creative impulses to think and execute their prints outside the expected norm. The final chapter explores the network the women artists established to combat the challenges of selling and exhibiting their art. This constant agitation paved the way for future women artists who benefited from their perseverance and are successful today.
Two appendices follow the text: the first provides a list of the female printmakers active at Atelier 17 in New York, and the other includes short biographies of selected artists.
Highly recommended for all art libraries, whether academic, museum, or design. The universal appeal of the topic should attract all audiences.