This Dark Country

Women Artists, Still Life and Intimacy in the Early Twentieth Century

Rebecca Birrell author


Publisher:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Published:18th Aug '22


Available to order, but very limited on stock - if we have issues obtaining a copy, we will let you know.

This Dark Country cover

Shortlisted for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize 2022Longlisted for the William M B Berger Prize for British Art History 2022 Guardian Art Book of the Year 2021 A dazzling, boldly original work that tells the powerful and passionate stories of a group of extraordinary women as glimpsed through their still life paintings What is contained in a still life – and what falls out of the frame? For women artists in the early twentieth century, such as Dora Carrington, Vanessa Bell and Gwen John, this art form was a conduit for their lives, their rebellions, their quietly subversive loves for men and women. But for every artist whom we remember, there are those whose work is almost forgotten. In This Dark Country, Rebecca Birrell conducts a dazzling fusion of group biography and art criticism, exploring, from the celebrated to the overlooked, the structures of intimacy that make – and dismantle – our worlds. 'A brilliant book ... A truly radical aesthetics fit for the twenty-first century at last!' - Thérèse Oulton'[A] wonderful book. I am impressed and fascinated. It is beautifully written' - Celia Paul

Blending flights of poetic rhapsody with more traditional critical language, This Dark Country is as seductive as it is scholarly ... Riveting * Financial Times *
[A] wonderful book. I am impressed and fascinated. It is beautifully written. Each woman artist, in this superb book, addresses the need to transform the confines she inhabits into a space of empowerment. These artists all lived and worked in the first part of the twentieth century yet their legacy continues to be relevant -- Celia Paul
A brilliant book ... A truly radical aesthetics fit for the twenty-first century at last! -- Thérèse Oulton
A beautifully written and important art historical work, This Dark Country is a magnificent debut by one of Britain’s most electrifying new talents. I cannot wait to read what she writes next! -- Camilla Grudova, author of THE DOLL's ALPHABET
[An] unusual and refreshing group biography of artists ... I loved Birrell's brilliant re-apprehension of Rodin’s The Thinker through the experience of Gwen John. And her explanation of the magnitude of rooms and importance of room, in these women’s lives -- Leanne Shapton
[A] beautiful, bold new book … explores the desires and ambitions of women artists, moving beyond the frame to reflect lives that rarely fit convention -- Chlöe Ashby * Elephant *
Birrell’s blend of art criticism and biography works best when it is tethered to real-world calculation. She is particularly good at teasing out the stubborn material facts that underpin the most serene of still lifes -- Kathryn Hughes * Guardian *
Rebecca Birrell urges us to ask new questions about gender and genre, domesticity and work … At its heart is the challenge of understanding the lives and works of women whose desires and ambitions often demanded secrecy, evasion and ambiguity -- Norma Clarke * Literary Review *
[I was] captivated by this extraordinary book - stayed up way too late scribbling my astonishment on all the pages -- Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of 'A Ghost in the Throat'
This is a bold, unusual book, filled with archival research, exuberant ideas and a determination to counter misogyny -- Diana Souhami * RA Magazine *
We have not generally thought of the still life as a radical feminist genre – until now. In This Dark Country, Rebecca Birrell gives a sensitive, deeply researched look at the lives behind the still lives, showing us how for a group of early twentieth-century women artists the home became a radical feminist space in which to redefine domesticity and their relationships to the world outside. There is a calm and companionable stillness to Birrell’s prose, too; I loved seeing these paintings through Birrell’s eyes. -- Lauren Elkin

ISBN: 9781526604033

Dimensions: unknown

Weight: unknown

384 pages