Author Profile: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)


Virginia Woolf 1902.jpg
Virginia Woolf 1902

Acknowledged along with James Joyce as one of the foremost Modernist writers, and by Simone de Beauvoir as one of the few female writers to have explored what she referred to as “the given” – the assumptions made about what a woman ‘is’ – Virginia Woolf is best-remembered today for a handful of her most prominent novels, but during her lifetime was also a noted essayist and critic.


She was born in London on the 25th of January 1882, into an upper middle class family with strong literary and artistic connections. Continue reading “Author Profile: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)”

Recommended Read: Female Artists in History (Facebook page)

Into the Light-14, by Marion van Nieuwpoort, 2007. Love the contrast in this painting: stillness and movement, washed-out neutrals and bright pinks.

I’ve been following the Female Artists in History Facebook page for several months now, and wanted to share it here for anyone who might be interested. Curated by two women, Christa Zaat and Carel Ronk, the page presents works, primarily paintings, by women artists along with brief biographies.

And it turns out there are a lot of them. All the well-known names are there: Artemisia Gentileschi, Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keefe… but there are also heaps of names that I (and probably you) have never come across before. Continue reading “Recommended Read: Female Artists in History (Facebook page)”

Treasure Trove: This Really Cool ‘Prize Bound’ Book Awarded By My Old High School Nearly A Hundred Years Ago

While browsing one of the second-hand book-stalls at my local market, as I am wont to do on a Saturday morning, I found… THIS!


The cover caught my eye immediately: while my school crest has changed over the last hundred years, the school name – Wanganui Girls’ College – hasn’t. (The spelling of ‘Whanganui’ has changed, but that’s a don’t-mention-the-War kind of thing). Continue reading “Treasure Trove: This Really Cool ‘Prize Bound’ Book Awarded By My Old High School Nearly A Hundred Years Ago”

Author Profile: Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)

Little House in the Big Woods first edition
First Edition of Little House in the Big Woods

Having owned, and read repeatedly, the entire ‘Little House’ series as a child, I was already aware that Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived the adventurous childhood of a true ‘pioneer girl’ (the original working title of her memoirs). However, unlike many authors of fictionalised accounts, Ingalls actually downplayed, or omitted entirely, some of the events of her childhood. Like the brother who died in infancy (a particular tragedy at a time when it was still considered important for a man to have a son: Laura had no other brothers), or the time a man in the town where her family was living got drunk and accidentally set himself on fire. Continue reading “Author Profile: Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)”

Opera in my Pyjamas: Dido and Aeneas

I really did watch this opera in my pyjamas, when I had to take a day off work sick a couple of weeks ago. The version I watched was a 1995 production by the BBC, which you can view here. Being a BBC production it was basically filmed as a musical movie rather than recorded from the stage, and with all the resources of the BBC at their disposal the set and costume designers appear to have delighted in mashing up the styles of ancient Carthage and Restoration England, with a healthy dose of pyromania just for kicks. The end result may not be exactly what Purcell had in mind (at least, I’m guessing he probably didn’t intend for his opera to include nudity and prostitutes), but it was certainly visually interesting.

Dido and Aeneas BBC 1

Continue reading “Opera in my Pyjamas: Dido and Aeneas”

Paintings You Should Know: Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting’, 1638-39

Artemisia Gentileschi Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting 1638to9
Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1638-9

That Artemisia Gentileschi (1590-c.1654) is one of the best-known female Baroque artists is, sadly, due less to her talent as an artist than it is to the scandal which marred her teenage years, when she was raped by Agostino Tassi, a ‘friend’ of her father Orazio Gentileschi. Having initially endeavoured to salvage her honour through marriage to Tassi (a horrifying thought today, but no more than Artemisia’s rights by the standard of the time), Artemisia and her father ultimately took Tassi to court and, impressively, won. Tassi went to prison, and Artemisia’s artistic skill was overshadowed by the drama. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting’, 1638-39”

Paintings You Should Know: Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Petunia, No. 2’

“I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.”

Georgia O’Keeffe

Okeeffe Petunia No 2 1925
Georgia O’Keeffe, Petunia, No. 2, 1924

Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Petunia, No. 2’”

Mothers, Daughters, Wives; or, ‘what about the women’?

But you never thought to question,
You just went on with your lives,
‘Cos all they’d taught you who to be,
Was mothers, daughters, wives.

Judy Small, ‘Mothers, Daughters, Wives’

In recent years there’s been a growing awareness of the role that women played in World Wars One and Two, which has resulted in a growing body of non-fiction and fictionalised accounts of women’s lives during this time, from the classic Diary of Anne Frank to books and television shows about nurses and land girls (Australia’s ‘ANZAC Girls’; the BBC’s ‘Land Girls’). The Wars have also long provided a backdrop for paperback fiction aimed at women: romances and kitchen-sink dramas. But look for what might be classed as ‘classic literature’ by and about women in the Wars and you’re likely to be disappointed: there is no All Quiet on the Western Front, no Birdsong, no Catch-22. Women, when they appear at all, are almost always secondary characters who exist primarily as an (often-romantic) appendage of the men. Continue reading “Mothers, Daughters, Wives; or, ‘what about the women’?”

Author Profile: Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie

The uncontested ‘Queen of Crime’, Dame Agatha Christie is hailed as the best-selling novelist of all time, with her works ranked third behind the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare. Her most famous and beloved characters are the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple; many of her stories about these characters have been adapted for television. Continue reading “Author Profile: Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976)”