This Dark Country: Women Artists, Still Life and Intimacy in the Early Twentieth Century

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Shortlisted for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize 2022 Longlisted for the William M B Berger Prize for British Art History 2022

A boldly original work that tells the powerful stories of a group of extraordinary women as glimpsed through their still life paintings

**Picked as an Art Book of the Year 2021 by the Guardian** 'As seductive as it is scholarly ... Riveting' Financial Times

'A wonderfully rich, deeply researched page-turner ... Sumptuous, precise and bewitching' Jennifer Higgie

'Playful, provocative ... Her attentive, evocative prose renderings of paintings are pleasures in themselves' Times Literary Supplement

------------------------------ Lemons gleam in a bowl. Flowers fan out softly in a vase. A door swings open in a sparsely furnished room. What is contained in a still life – and what falls out of the frame?

For women artists in the early twentieth century, including Ethel Sands, Nina Hamnett, Vanessa Bell and Gwen John, who lived in and around the Bloomsbury Group, the still life was a conduit for their lives, their rebellions, their quiet loves for men and women. Gluck, who challenged the framing of her gender and her art, painted flowers arranged by the woman she loved; Dora Carrington, a Slade School graduate, recorded eggs on a table at Tidmarsh Mill, where she built a richly fulfilling if delicate life with Lytton Strachey. But for every artist we remember, there is one we have forgotten, who leaves only elusive traces, whose art was replaced by being a mother or wife, whose remaining artworks lie dusty in archives or attics. In this boldly original blend of group biography and art criticism, Rebecca Birrell brings these shadowy figures into the light and conducts a dazzling investigation into the structures of intimacy that make – and dismantle – our worlds.

'Unusual and refreshing ... Brilliant' Leanne Shapton

'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

'A magnificent debut by one of Britain's most electrifying new talents' Camilla Grudova

'A bold, unusual book, filled with archival research, exuberant ideas and a determination to counter misogyny' Diana Souhami, RA Magazine

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Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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