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The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art

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Take a romp through the last two thousand years of Western Art with the Guerrilla Girls as your guides, and find out the real who, what, when, and why of art history. Who put all those naked men in the classical section of museums? What were the "do's" and "don'ts" for female artists as "civilization" marched across Europe? Why did nuns have more fun in medieval times? Thi Take a romp through the last two thousand years of Western Art with the Guerrilla Girls as your guides, and find out the real who, what, when, and why of art history. Who put all those naked men in the classical section of museums? What were the "do's" and "don'ts" for female artists as "civilization" marched across Europe? Why did nuns have more fun in medieval times? This wisecracking but cleverly wise story of art is guaranteed to turn history on its head - and maybe a few historians too. Sprinkled throughout are "believe it or not" quotations from so-called experts; useful facts (consider how many prostitutes and how few suffragettes were painted in the nineteenth century); and reproductions of famous art works "enhanced" for historical accuracy and revenge.


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Take a romp through the last two thousand years of Western Art with the Guerrilla Girls as your guides, and find out the real who, what, when, and why of art history. Who put all those naked men in the classical section of museums? What were the "do's" and "don'ts" for female artists as "civilization" marched across Europe? Why did nuns have more fun in medieval times? Thi Take a romp through the last two thousand years of Western Art with the Guerrilla Girls as your guides, and find out the real who, what, when, and why of art history. Who put all those naked men in the classical section of museums? What were the "do's" and "don'ts" for female artists as "civilization" marched across Europe? Why did nuns have more fun in medieval times? This wisecracking but cleverly wise story of art is guaranteed to turn history on its head - and maybe a few historians too. Sprinkled throughout are "believe it or not" quotations from so-called experts; useful facts (consider how many prostitutes and how few suffragettes were painted in the nineteenth century); and reproductions of famous art works "enhanced" for historical accuracy and revenge.

30 review for The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    FULL DISCLOSURE. I have a degree in art history (I read Jenson's History of Western Art like it was my job) and I am a lady (XX representin'!). That may have a very strong impact on my response to this book. Some people I have talked to (dudes, mostly. White dudes) think this book is revisionist shenanigans and HEY YOU KNOW WHAT maybe some of it is. Maybe white dudes painted all this stuff or whatever. But there are also plenty of facts about women in art. Convents, which we normally think of as FULL DISCLOSURE. I have a degree in art history (I read Jenson's History of Western Art like it was my job) and I am a lady (XX representin'!). That may have a very strong impact on my response to this book. Some people I have talked to (dudes, mostly. White dudes) think this book is revisionist shenanigans and HEY YOU KNOW WHAT maybe some of it is. Maybe white dudes painted all this stuff or whatever. But there are also plenty of facts about women in art. Convents, which we normally think of as stifling, oppressive places were actually the one place a women could express herself in beautiful and intricate works of art. Take from it what you will, but the GGs have put together a really intriguing and witty volume.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    3.5 stars I got my degree in Art History and I had never heard of the Guerrilla Girls until I took a class called "Women in Art." It's a shame that I had to take a class specifically about women artists before anyone in my field ever decided to mention such an amazing organization. Their goal is to get more women and artists of color showcased (or even put on display rather than kept in basements and storage rooms) in art museums and galleries. They want equality and to be recorded in history boo 3.5 stars I got my degree in Art History and I had never heard of the Guerrilla Girls until I took a class called "Women in Art." It's a shame that I had to take a class specifically about women artists before anyone in my field ever decided to mention such an amazing organization. Their goal is to get more women and artists of color showcased (or even put on display rather than kept in basements and storage rooms) in art museums and galleries. They want equality and to be recorded in history books as such. Here are a few of my favorite posters that they've done over the years: These are all awesome and extremely important messages and ideas that need to get out to the public but I just didn't feel that the book was as powerful and effective as it could have been. I wish there had been some more in-depth analyses of the reasons why women and people of color have been kept out of history books and museums for so long, as well as some more information on some of the more famous women artists. Each artist is given only 1-2 pages apiece (for fairness I suppose) and it's just not enough space to fully discuss them, especially when there's so much extra stuff (quotes, facts, etc.) around the margins. It's a great introduction though to a very important topic and a fabulous organization that's trying to make the world a better place. Here's their website for more information: Guerrilla Girls

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katey Moore

    I have a degree in Art History and the majority of this was new to me. Something needs to change with our educational system. The hours and hours I have spent learning about the white male version of art history is SUPER upsetting. Thank you to the Guerrilla Girls for getting the word out. This book is a super easy read with lots of hilarious quotes and first-hand accounts. You should definitely read this if you have ever wanted to know more about women artists and art in general.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Leiki Fae

    Oh, wow...this book was published in 1998; coincidentally, the year I started studying AP Art History. I remember at least once our teacher trying to discuss the lack of women in our textbooks. We acknowledged that it existed, that women could of course be artists and as talented as men, but because of a historical lack of opportunities, that there just weren't that many women artists. But really, there were. There are nearly 70 women artists in this book, and that's just mostly Western artists, Oh, wow...this book was published in 1998; coincidentally, the year I started studying AP Art History. I remember at least once our teacher trying to discuss the lack of women in our textbooks. We acknowledged that it existed, that women could of course be artists and as talented as men, but because of a historical lack of opportunities, that there just weren't that many women artists. But really, there were. There are nearly 70 women artists in this book, and that's just mostly Western artists, and women that got some recognition in their time, and then were forgotten in the history books, or women who were remembered in the history books for a little while, then forgotten. There were loads and loads of female artists just intentionally not included in the canon, and I rather resent that for a long time, as long as I was being formally and officially education, the excuse was "women doing anything of import didn't really exist because sexism," when in fact loads of amazing, inspiring women existed and have just been conveniently left off the list written by white dudes. AND they had to work twice as hard, painting in between domestic responsibilities, reliant on the approval and support of their fathers or spouses, ridiculed and scorned for being women who did anything other than think about men....oh, god. It's not like I didn't /know/, but I am always learning more and even in 2018 it shocks and appalls. This book was like 100 pages of "GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR". I know things are in many ways different now, but I am really going to be intentional about making sure my nieces and also my nephew aren't surprised to find out that women--women of all races, in all places--have been doing amazing things since time began without any recognition. It's a crime and tragedy that we are just barely beginning to create an inclusive canon and/or to understand creativity that doesn't spout from white dudes'....................................... How many women have been saying this and saying it better for hundreds of years? Do what we can, keep reading and learning, uncovering and dusting off all these women. It's like visiting some kooky old uncle and seeing his displaying empty soup tins all over and finding out he has a treasure chest full of actual treasures gathering dust in the basement. God and some of these guys were such monstrous jerks, too, especially when it came to women.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

    Love the work of the Guerrilla Girls and love women's art and could not wait to get this book. Although "romp" is the phrase used on the cover, I was hoping for more depth and analysis of women's art and the lives of women artists. There are also some major artists missing--a copyright issue, perhaps? (Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, May Stevens, Sister Corita Kent, Dorothea Lange, Martha Swope, Judy Chicago, Alice Neel, Mary Ellen Mark, Yoko Ono, not to mention illustrators like Jessie Wilcox S Love the work of the Guerrilla Girls and love women's art and could not wait to get this book. Although "romp" is the phrase used on the cover, I was hoping for more depth and analysis of women's art and the lives of women artists. There are also some major artists missing--a copyright issue, perhaps? (Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, May Stevens, Sister Corita Kent, Dorothea Lange, Martha Swope, Judy Chicago, Alice Neel, Mary Ellen Mark, Yoko Ono, not to mention illustrators like Jessie Wilcox Smith and all the "Red Rose Girls" etc etc etc). Fair or not, I was expecting more celebration of women's art and lives but the emphasis here is on how women have been exploited or fallen short of the male model of achievement. Which is true-- we are under-represented in the canon and the museums-- but women have endured and made some really great art, and in many instances, they've made it on their own terms. I'd love to see that part of the story in this book (or the next book the Guerrilla Girls write?) Also troubling is a tendency to dismiss traditional female subject matter-- i.e. Cassatt painting domestic scenes. Yes it's true that women should not be pigeon-holed and Cassatt's non traditional subjects should be renowned. At the same time, a work that conveys some aspect of female experience-- i.e. Les Dernier Jours d'enfance by Cecelia Beaux, for instance-- is profoundly moving and insightful, and given the realities facing a 19th century woman artist, a triumph over tremendous odds. I wish that kind of work was more examined and celebrated here, and I hope the Guerrilla Girls will have an opportunity to write a more extended history. Another great idea would be to ,onsider the relationship of visual art to other art forms (look at how Woolf, for instance, handles the balance of art vs. domestic life in To the Lighthouse-- she respects both equally!! --or consider Olsen's Silences or Rich's Of Woman Born and consider how they relate to this work.). I was excited to share this book with my daughter and now I'm wondering if I should consider a big book of feminist art instead. The lively "comic" approach seems ideal for kids, but the message is more victim-focused than I hoped. Dear Guerrilla Girls, please write a sequel.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Belcher

    As someone who wanted to take art history classes in college but could never seem to fit them in, the concept of this book was really interesting to me. I loved learning about history's unsung heroines of art, and that it included a range of mediums. This book was informative, accessible, and witty, and I'm really glad I read. As someone who wanted to take art history classes in college but could never seem to fit them in, the concept of this book was really interesting to me. I loved learning about history's unsung heroines of art, and that it included a range of mediums. This book was informative, accessible, and witty, and I'm really glad I read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Disclaimer, I had to read this book because I was running a book club on it. It is not something I would have picked up on my own. The cover alone is jarring, and while I get the rationale behind it and the entire movement, I hate hate hate that they defaced the art in the book. How can I appreciate it if it has a giant gorilla head pasted on it? The reason for the book is to help people learn more about the female side of Western Art's history. And it does that. There are hundreds of names here Disclaimer, I had to read this book because I was running a book club on it. It is not something I would have picked up on my own. The cover alone is jarring, and while I get the rationale behind it and the entire movement, I hate hate hate that they defaced the art in the book. How can I appreciate it if it has a giant gorilla head pasted on it? The reason for the book is to help people learn more about the female side of Western Art's history. And it does that. There are hundreds of names here of people I promise you've never heard of. But that's the problem. There's lots of little blips with no real information. I'd have loved to read an entire chapter on Rodin's lover who was probably a better artist than he was. Instead I got a blurb. So yes, lots of meat, no real substance. This is the book version of chinese food.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A book that endeavors to shed some light on female painters throughout history. I really liked this book, but it is a jumping off point for research. You are dipping your toe into each artist, time-period, -ism, that you'll end up wanting to learn more about several of the artists in the book. I liked the shifting formats of information including mock interviews, post cards, etc. All the artists within the pages are deceased as it is written by an anonymous coalition of contemporary artists know A book that endeavors to shed some light on female painters throughout history. I really liked this book, but it is a jumping off point for research. You are dipping your toe into each artist, time-period, -ism, that you'll end up wanting to learn more about several of the artists in the book. I liked the shifting formats of information including mock interviews, post cards, etc. All the artists within the pages are deceased as it is written by an anonymous coalition of contemporary artists known collectively as the Guerilla Girls. Not enough information is being presented mainstream about these artists so this book was very eye-opening.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachi

    I loved this! such a unique and creative way to learn from women artists! A light reading but very enlightening

  10. 5 out of 5

    Becki Iverson

    This. Was. Fabulous. I got so many ideas of new people and arts to research and found this so inspiring. This proves that you can pack a LOT of information into a small space, as long as it is smartly planned. This is also written in many different styles (letter, CV, narrative, diary, etc.), so there should be a way for everyone to find something to connect with. It's easy to forget how mnay people are shut out of our popular histories, and any attempt to write these wrongs is an important one. This. Was. Fabulous. I got so many ideas of new people and arts to research and found this so inspiring. This proves that you can pack a LOT of information into a small space, as long as it is smartly planned. This is also written in many different styles (letter, CV, narrative, diary, etc.), so there should be a way for everyone to find something to connect with. It's easy to forget how mnay people are shut out of our popular histories, and any attempt to write these wrongs is an important one. The Bedside Companion does a bang-up job of doing so and beginning the process of rectifying historical omissions. I adored this and can't wait to fly through the remaining Guerrilla Girls catalog. This is a must for everyone who looks at or appreciates art - I promise there will be information you've never heard of.

  11. 5 out of 5

    RH Walters

    An awesome message that reads like an urgent pamphlet -- it could be much longer and deeper but the critical value was obviously getting the message out -- that there have been many obstacles to women making art and getting respect as artists. I'm curious about how a lot of women's creativity gets filtered into their appearance, cooking, home-making, etc. and valued the opportunity to ponder this issue, although the book is quite brief, under 100 pages. A great conversation starter. An awesome message that reads like an urgent pamphlet -- it could be much longer and deeper but the critical value was obviously getting the message out -- that there have been many obstacles to women making art and getting respect as artists. I'm curious about how a lot of women's creativity gets filtered into their appearance, cooking, home-making, etc. and valued the opportunity to ponder this issue, although the book is quite brief, under 100 pages. A great conversation starter.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    A good intro to women aritsts in history that are often not talked about, made me want to go out and find more about them. However . . . a bit too over-the-top for me and man-bashing. I'm a feminist through and through, but the book skates over why women artists have been marginalized, that it's a longstanding cultural atmosphere --- I wish the book had been twice the length so it could have offered more explanation, more analysis. A good intro to women aritsts in history that are often not talked about, made me want to go out and find more about them. However . . . a bit too over-the-top for me and man-bashing. I'm a feminist through and through, but the book skates over why women artists have been marginalized, that it's a longstanding cultural atmosphere --- I wish the book had been twice the length so it could have offered more explanation, more analysis.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    The Guerrilla Girl's provide an interesting alternative view to the history of western art. As a former graphic design major I had to take art history during my freshman year of college. The class was about discussing the styles of art more-so than the artists themselves, but the GG's Bedside Companion is kind of a back alley approach to discussing more of a behind the scenes look at what possibly went on. Plus it highlights a bunch of female artists that my class never bothered to talk about. The Guerrilla Girl's provide an interesting alternative view to the history of western art. As a former graphic design major I had to take art history during my freshman year of college. The class was about discussing the styles of art more-so than the artists themselves, but the GG's Bedside Companion is kind of a back alley approach to discussing more of a behind the scenes look at what possibly went on. Plus it highlights a bunch of female artists that my class never bothered to talk about.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Betsy McGee

    Finally, I got the title right...it only took a couple dozen tries. Anyway, a good light read that artists, historians, art historians, and feminists can all appreciate, with a hidden 1, 2 punch about just how unfair history can be. Reads a bit like a comic bood, excuse me, "graphic novel", but I enjoyed it anyway. Finally, I got the title right...it only took a couple dozen tries. Anyway, a good light read that artists, historians, art historians, and feminists can all appreciate, with a hidden 1, 2 punch about just how unfair history can be. Reads a bit like a comic bood, excuse me, "graphic novel", but I enjoyed it anyway.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I adored this book and learned a lot about women artists that I had never ever heard of. It is written in such an easy and conversational way that you don't need to know anything about art history, so you could give it to a middle schooler and they would be able to read it without getting bogged down in art jargon. It would be the perfect book for your artsy "I'm not a feminist bur..." friend. I adored this book and learned a lot about women artists that I had never ever heard of. It is written in such an easy and conversational way that you don't need to know anything about art history, so you could give it to a middle schooler and they would be able to read it without getting bogged down in art jargon. It would be the perfect book for your artsy "I'm not a feminist bur..." friend.

  16. 5 out of 5

    meganelizabeth

    I mostly gave this 5 stars because I had to read it in one of my university classes and write a short essay based around a few artists featured in this book. For that reason, I enjoyed the light-hearted format of this book (i.e comic strips, random facts, strange illustrations). It was refreshing and a needed change from reading a 500+ page textbook.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heeba Salem

    I got the title right finally .it only took a couple dozen tries. Anyway, a good light read that artists, historians, art historians, and feminists can all appreciate, with a hidden 1, 2 punch about just how unfair history can be. Reads a bit like a comic bood, excuse me, "graphic novel", but I enjoyed it anyway I got the title right finally .it only took a couple dozen tries. Anyway, a good light read that artists, historians, art historians, and feminists can all appreciate, with a hidden 1, 2 punch about just how unfair history can be. Reads a bit like a comic bood, excuse me, "graphic novel", but I enjoyed it anyway

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    The Guerrilla Girls were anonymous women artists starting in the 80's, wearing guerrilla masks. They protested the lack of women artists in museums, collections, galleries. Short but fun, interesting read. Love their quotes -"Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" "Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female." The Guerrilla Girls were anonymous women artists starting in the 80's, wearing guerrilla masks. They protested the lack of women artists in museums, collections, galleries. Short but fun, interesting read. Love their quotes -"Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" "Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female."

  19. 5 out of 5

    E. V. Gross

    This book rocked and was especially useful for my SMP research. I wish it hadn't belonged to the library, it would've been a great book to return to later...just for personal feminist killjoy reasons. This book rocked and was especially useful for my SMP research. I wish it hadn't belonged to the library, it would've been a great book to return to later...just for personal feminist killjoy reasons.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shauntrice

    I took Women and The Arts for my art minor, and this was one of the recommended texts. This is the most creative book I have ever read; I mean everything from the writing style to the layout to the graphics... I LOVE IT!! I just wish it was longer.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A great introduction to the under-realized theme of women being left out of art history studies; however, not for complete art history n00bs because of the name dropping. I would recommend this to anyone interested in feminism, history, or art.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle Carolina

    A perfect choice for a survey course, though if you want students going into greater detail, perhaps if you have a larger unit on women in art/art history I would steer you towards Whitney Chadwick's text. A perfect choice for a survey course, though if you want students going into greater detail, perhaps if you have a larger unit on women in art/art history I would steer you towards Whitney Chadwick's text.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kusuma

    I love the Guerrilla Girls! They're so fiesty, and this books uses fun drawings and humor to illustrate just how inaccurate "history" can be. I love the Guerrilla Girls! They're so fiesty, and this books uses fun drawings and humor to illustrate just how inaccurate "history" can be.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    B+ Esp useful for young female artists

  25. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This is hard to read becuase there is SO much going on...too many cartoons, pictures and info bubbles on each page, in addition to text it is really hard to concentrate

  26. 5 out of 5

    julia

    I'm already mad and I just opened it. I normally try to shelve my anger in an attempt to live a rage free life. Still a little anger at the establishment is always a good thing. I'm already mad and I just opened it. I normally try to shelve my anger in an attempt to live a rage free life. Still a little anger at the establishment is always a good thing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Really interesting- women in art and their little known stories (funny and easy to read)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kym

    Saucy and funny female artists use humor to combat the frustration they have experienced in the male dominated art world.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    tried to read but just couldn't get into this tried to read but just couldn't get into this

  30. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I love what they are trying to do! Female artists are shockingly underrepresented in collections and often unfairly reviewed. I find their presentation occasionally unfortunate, however. 26/52/09

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