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This elegant survey of more than 60 works of art chronicles the nascent liberation when women began to walk freely by themselves in public.
At the close of the eighteenth century, women began to discover a new sense of freedom, adventure, and self-determination, simply by walking in public unaccompanied. Previously, solitary walks by women were considered unseemly. An unaccompanied hike in the country was beyond imagination; to promenade by oneself on city boulevards was unthinkable.
This book features evocative paintings of women doing just that, by a range of artists, from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, among them British portraitist Thomas Gainsborough, the scandalous Gustave Courbet, Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, American masters Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, and Nabi artist Félix Vallotton.
With paintings as her guide, Karin Sagner takes us on a visual journey through this vital yet oft-overlooked aspect of women’s emancipation, from the promenades of the nobility to everyday walks in the city, on gentle strolls in the country or hikes up mountain summits. Quotes by luminaries like the Marquise de Sévigné, Jane Austen, and Simone de Beauvoir gracefully support her points.
A thoughtful gift for graduates, teachers, or Mother’s Day, this subtle but profound book is not only an illuminating history but a beautiful art historical survey and an inspirational guide.
About the Author
Karin Sagner is an art historian, writer, and curator. She has worked at the Bavarian State Paintings Collections in Munich and has published several books on French and German art of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her previous titles include Beautiful Women (2011) and Renoir and His Women (2012), both published in German by Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag.
Women Walking is a work of art, the stunning paintings nothing short of intoxicating. The history of women for the first time finding freedom, by walking the countryside and grand parks of Europe?not to mention climbing the treacherous peaks of Mont Blanc in entirely impractical clothing?is both captivating and entirely timely, given today’s growing walking trends.
— Diana Nyad, the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, a story captured in her memoir Find a Way. Nyad has also launched a the national walking initiative EverWalk.com.
A beautiful compendium of moments when women have seized their independence and set out on foot. Even where they've been captured by male artists, you can see the glint in their eyes: so this is freedom.
— Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse: Women Walk the City
This richly illustrated volume offers an engaging social history of women and recreational walking with a focus on nineteenth-century Europe. Author Karin Sanger takes us along nature walks, mountain hikes, and strolls through different European capitals, as captured by a wide range of artists from the period, supplemented with excerpts from novels and other contemporary sources.
— Kathryn Calley Galitz, author of The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings