Photographing the Women of British Art

Liliane Lijn, “Time Is Change” (1968), Letraset on painted truncated cork cone, motorized turntable, diameter: 54 x 25 cm, Tate Collection, London, photo: Richard Wilding, 2014 (image courtesy the artist and Rodeo, London)


. . . by framing artists inside their studios and homes, Magnus ensures that the presiding spirit of Illuminating Women is Virginia Woolf, whose famous avowal A Room of One’s Own (1928) confronts how centuries of sexism have silenced talented women while arguing that a woman’s genius requires untrammeled privacy in order to realize itself.

To Woolf, the “room of one’s own” is not just an existential necessity; it’s an economic one. Having herself inherited an annual stipend from a wealthy aunt, Woolf reckons that a talented woman needs “five hundred [pounds] a year and a room with a lock” in order to create. The money bestows on women “the power to contemplate” while the locked room grants “the power to think for oneself”; both produce space where a woman can be in the creative zone, a condition that Woolf calls “incandescent.”


Mayotte Magnus’s Illuminating Women features stage actors, novelists, artists, editors, and publishers whose breakthroughs coincided with the Feminist movement of the 1970s.

Source: Photographing the Women of British Art

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