Books | The Art of family

Art collides with family dynamics and interpersonal relationships in this selection of inspiring, beautifully illustrated books

Words Catherine Coyle

The Motherhood of Art by Marissa Huber & Heather Kirtland

This new publication is less an art book and more a warm hug of encouragement for anyone who has ever tried to balance child-rearing with a creative job. More than 30 mother-artists contribute, sharing advice, offering support and describing how they carve out time to make art. Among them are the authors themselves, painter and surface pattern designer Marissa Huber and artist Heather Kirtland, who kick-started the book after completing a project making art every day for 100 consecutive days. The Motherhood of Art is a gentle, informal look at strategies to help women keep on making art – and why that matters.
£28.99, Schiffer Publishing

Cherry Hill by Joan Frank

This is photographic artist Jona Frank’s fourth book – a multimedia memoir charting her suburban New Jersey childhood through essays and photos. It’s an unsettling read, detailing her family troubles – a difficult relationship with her mother, and a brother who suffered mental ill-health growing up. Reminiscent of a graphic novel and shot in a striking cinematic style, the imagery is vibrant and evocative. Adding to the cinematic feel is Oscar-winning actor Laura Dern, who takes on the role of Frank’s mother. But there’s a chilling hollowness to the photography – Frank captures the tension of the time and readers can feel the tangible pressure she felt as a young girl looking to find her place in the world.
£36, The Monacelli Press 

Pablo Picasso: The impossible collection by Diana Widmaier Picasso

Curated by the artist’s granddaughter (her mother, Maya, is Picasso’s elder daughter), Pablo Picasso: The Impossible Collection presents one hundred of the great master’s most significant works. Regarded as the most influential artist of the 20th century, Picasso’s work is as recognisable as it is covetable, but what art historian Diana Widmaier Picasso does is to put into context the breadth and complexity of her grandfather’s oeuvre. Handcrafted within a limited-edition linen clamshell case, this is a beautiful volume both inside and out for a serious collector with a Picasso passion.
£695, Assouline 

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Wilhelmina Barns-Graham by Virginia Button

Art books can sometimes be a wee bit intimidating: if it’s not on an artist or style you’re familiar with, chances are you’ll either feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed. This look at the work of Scottish artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, however, goes some way to dispelling the myth that art is inaccessible. By putting together an approachable, easy-to-read book about one of our largely unsung heroes, author Virginia Button gives us a great insight into Barns-Graham. A key player in the St Ives Modernists, she was less well known than her male counterparts, but this concise and engaging look at the artist’s life and work shows exactly why she is now so highly regarded.
£15, Sansom & Co 

Cecily Brown by Courtney J. Martin, Jason Rosenfeld, Francine Prose, and Cecily Brown

What makes this new publication so absorbing is its deft blend of sublime photographs of Cecily Brown’s paintings and the artist’s own words to help illuminate this body of world-class work. Brown lived and studied in London before relocating to New York in her mid-20s, where she now has a studio and an international following. The move to America opened up her work, she writes, allowing her a freedom of expression that she didn’t have in Britain. She also pays tribute to the influence the work of her mother (award-winning Scottish novelist Shena Mackay) has had on her art. Set alongside personal reference points, Brown’s paintings come alive, inviting viewers to fall under their spell.
£35, Phaidon

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