Until the twentieth century, art history was, in the main, written by white men who tended to write about other white men. The idea that women in the West have always made art was rarely cited as a possibility. Yet they have – and, of course, continue to do so – often against tremendous odds, from laws and religion to the pressures of family and public disapproval.

In THE MIRROR AND THE PALETTE, Jennifer Higgie introduces us to a cross-section of women artists who embody the fact that there is more than one way to understand our planet, more than one way to live in it and more than one way to make art about it. Spanning 500 years, biography and cultural history intertwine in a narrative packed with tales of rebellion, adventure, revolution, travel and tragedy enacted by women who turned their back on convention and lived lives of great resilience, creativity and bravery. This is a dazzlingly original and ambitious book by one of the most well-respected art critics at work today.

Reviews

[An] illuminating new study on why women have been largely shut out of art history. Higgie's clever thesis looks at self-portraits as a springboard, giving fresh insights into brilliant artists such as Frida Kahlo, Loïs Mailou Jones, Amrita Sher-Gil, Suzanne Valadon, Gwen John, Artemisia Gentileschi and Paula Modersohn-Becker
THE ART NEWSPAPER
Sumptuous as well as fascinating
Rachel Cooke, OBSERVER
A bewitching, invigorating history of women artists, the work they've made and the impossibly hard conditions in which it was produced. I can't think of a more satisfying riposte to anyone who asks why there have been no great women artists than to present them with this incandescent book
OLIVIA LAING
The stories told by the lives of these women artists and the self-portraits they made comprise a history as compelling as it is shocking. The verve and clarity of Higgie's writing and the range of her research combine to position THE MIRROR AND THE PALETTE as a future classic of art history
MICHAEL BRACEWELL
In The Mirror and the Palette Jennifer Higgie celebrates 20 women artists who defied the odds and broke taboos to present themselves, and their female perspective on the times they lived in, to the world
CHRISTIES
Jennifer Higgie puts female artists centre stage with this fascinating biography looking at 500 years of self-portraits
THE i NEWSPAPER
Superbly researched and elegantly written . . . a fascinating study in the defiant and determined creativity of women that was so lamentably actively erased by official art histories . . . gloriously readable and deeply intelligent
GRISELDA POLLOCK
The Mirror and the Palette reminded me immediately of the best kind of Antonia Fraser reading experience: knowledgeable and richly researched but written with an intuitive, sympathetic eye for the most humanising details of personalities we know only as cultural icons, or not at all. Higgie's own quiet but persistent presence as a reader and a looker in these sinuous little biographies is also the courage of the researcher who really cares about her subject and can turn dry information into the kind of compulsive read that makes you wish you had your daily commute back
NIAMH CAMPBELL, author of THIS HAPPY
An uplifting and dazzling tour through history . . . a breakout book that shifts the spotlight onto the names that the art world has painted over. It's illuminating and essential reading
STYLIST
Higgie's book is a riposte to Renoir and centuries of unknowing and misjudging. Reading it is like travelling with an ever-excited companion who has lots to say . . . always compelling
LITERARY REVIEW
This engrossing book sheds new light on forgotten and disregarded female artists throughout history - and about time too . . . an absorbing story of women's art made in the European tradition
Nancy Durrant, EVENING STANDARD
A lively and edifying read
BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE
Joyous . . . As Jennifer Higgie argues in this fine, haunting book, women have always made art, despite the discouragement lobbed in their path. The Mirror and the Palette is a redress, and vividly done - so much so that it rustles with the women's presence. You feel them standing behind you, expectant . . . A revelatory study
Lucy Davies, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
A fascinating survey of women's self-portraits from the Renaissance to the 20th century . . . Extraordinary
Simeon House, DAILY MAIL
Jennifer Higgie has created a masterpiece of her own within the pages of this rich, celebratory tome, which examines a cross-section of female artists spanning back across the past 500 years. Illuminating and captivating, this is a sumptuous and vital read for all lovers of art
WOMAN & HOME, best non-fiction books of 2021
Higgie's book is a useful primer for those seeking to understand the obstacles and challenges faced by women artists over the centuries, as well as a timely assessment of what it means to look at women artists from history today. The Mirror and the Palette is an important and brilliantly accessible resource
VOGUE
Higgie's chatty, intimate style grips from the opening pages
Rachel Spence, FINANCIAL TIMES
In this idiosyncratic and fascinating primer, Higgie skillfully restores marginalized women self-portraitists to their rightful place in the art pantheon. Full of edgy insights, this engrossing survey will delight art connoisseurs and general readers alike
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (Starred)
[Higgie is] a master storyteller and brilliant translator of sensory experiences, she makes us care about her artists as people. An eye-opening intervention in the memory system of art history, The Mirror and the Palette is a major contribution, not least for the author's appealing, accessible writing
Julie M. Johnson, TLS
Brilliant . . . reveals an until-now hidden history of women's self-portraiture. A gift that keeps on giving
Ali Smith, NEW STATESMAN