Paint him out: Katy Hessel’s retelling of art history is Waterstones book of the year | Waterstones

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Paint him out: Katy Hessel’s retelling of art history is Waterstones book of the year | Waterstones

Katy Hessel’s The Story of Art Without Men, which started as an Instagram account highlighting female artists, has been named the Waterstones book of the year.

The book was chosen by the retailer’s booksellers, who each year vote for the books they enjoyed the most to recommend to customers. As well as book of the year, they also named Bonnie Garmus, who wrote Lessons in Chemistry, author of the year and children’s book of the year to Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by AF Steadman.

‘A feast for the senses, as well as the mind’… The story of art without men by Katy Hessel. Photo: Penguin Books

Hessel is an art historian, presenter and curator who founded @thegreatwomenartists on Instagram after visiting an art fair and realizing she would struggle to name 20 female artists. She also hosts The Great Woman Artists podcast and writes the great women’s art newsletter, a fortnightly column in the Guardian.

Kate Skipper, Waterstones’ chief operating officer, called The Story of Art Without Men “as essential as it is delicious” and said it was “written with wit and ease” and could be “devoured in one sitting or immersed in a whim “.

“This is a book that will be praised for years; a feast for the senses, as well as the mind,” she added.

Hessel said she was “completely overwhelmed” by the Waterstones Book of the Year award, but said it was “a testament to all the stories, the untold stories” in her book. “I often think of my book as a kind of party, all these amazing people who fought everything to be there, and to be recognized on this scale is just amazing,” she added.

The book’s title is modeled on The Story of Art by EH Gombrich, a survey of art history first published in 1950. It had no women in its first edition, and the most recent edition features only one.

In reviewing Hessel’s book for the Observer, Bidisha Mamata said it was a “positive, beautifully written corrective” and should become a foundational text in the history of art by women.

“We live in such a culturally, socially, politically changing time,” Hessel said. “Women have been oppressed for millennia and I think it is so important that we make these corrections.

“The goal is for equality; it’s not at all to avoid men from our history. The book does this in a way that only celebrates the women. I think we’re in this very culturally interesting time when we have to go overboard to make equality and have equality in the future.”

The book covers artists from all over the world and, says Hessel, “breaks down the canon in terms of gender, but it also breaks down the canon in terms of the hierarchy of art forms, so we have things like pottery, textiles, weaving, sculpture , everything”.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, named Waterstones' Author of the Year.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, named Waterstones’ Author of the Year. Photo: Doubleday

Meanwhile, Bea Carvalho, head of fiction at Waterstones, said Garmus had been recognized as author of the year for “the astronomical success of her wonderful debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry”.

The novel is about chemist Elizabeth Zott, who hosts a cooking show that challenges women to change the status quo. “Bonnie has written that rare novel that readers of all tastes will adore: funny yet infuriating, uplifting yet heartbreaking, it’s a deft piece of social history, and a triumphant testament to the art of fiction writing that underlines how powerful and joyous the genre is is. can be,” Carvalho said.

The children’s book of the year, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, is the first in a series and follows Skandar Smith, who has only ever wanted to be a unicorn rider.

Florentyna Martin, head of children at Waterstones, said AF Steadman’s book was a “lively and original debut” which, with its “brilliant unicorn creations and impressive combinations of elemental magic, successfully plays with readers’ expectations of the traditional fantasy adventure, which the next shake.wave of storytelling”.

  • The Story of Art without Men by Katy Hessel (Cornerstone, £30). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy from guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

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