Imagine a world where the famous female painters of the past are women and seeing art through their eyes. Another History of Art by Anita Kunz envisions a world where famous art was painted from a feminist perspective. Alternative takes are made on artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci adding a satirical look at male-dominated art. To get a true appreciation for what Kunz was going for, I found I had to look at the original works and do a side-by-side comparison. 

The first artwork shown is Kunz’s take on Botticelli’s Primavera. In her version, it is of a woman who is holding hands with two monkeys. The Botticelli version is more of a panorama, telling a mythological story of the birth of the world. Kunz narrowing her focus on what is known as The Three Graces (Pleasure, Chastity, and Beauty) is what she wants us to reflect on. She makes a bit of a joke of it by making two of the Graces monkeys. She focuses on the male perspective that a woman’s worth or quality should be based on their sexual purity or outer beauty. In Botticelli’s version, he is careful to hide the nudity with arms placed in the right areas, back turned away from the viewer, or cloth covering the intimate areas. Kunz doesn’t shy away by giving us a hint of a side boob. By having monkeys instead of women being nude the nudity isn’t overt as it shows them in their natural state.

The next piece that captured my eye is called The Daughter of Man. It’s a take on The Son of Man by Rene Magritte. Magritte’s version, it’s of a man in a suit wearing a bowler hat with an apple over his face. Magritte has said that this painting is a reflection of our inner conflict between what is seen and what is hidden. Kunz’s version of this piece, it’s full-frontal nudity of a woman with flowing brown hair. She wears a bowler hat too and a red apple covers her face. She has tattoos extending from her face down through her arms. Some tattoos extend up from her legs and wrap around her torso. While Magritte’s version hides the body of the man, Kunz’s does not. This is a reflection of the obsession with women’s bodies and that we aren’t always looking at their faces. We are not willing to look beyond the artificial.

Common themes and imagery featured in the graphic novel are nudity, primates, pop culture icons like Popeye and Mickey Mouse. In comparison with the original artists Kunz is riffing on, I found her artwork to be lighter in tone and composition. The original artwork tended to be starker and darker. When I first opened this book I expected that I would be able to breeze through it quickly, but I found I was lost in my understanding of the themes being explored. I found it necessary to look at the original art and interpretations that had been done. It enhanced my understanding of both works and added an appreciation to what Kunz was trying to say. 

Another History of Art is a tricky book to recommend. I feel that it is pretty much a niche book. It’s for those that like classical art and don’t mind a satirical look at it. It’s also for those that want to take the time to reflect on art. I found that a side-by-side comparison with the original to be necessary to fully comprehend and understand the themes. I needed to know what both sides were trying to say before I got a firm grasp of it. This graphic novel is geared more towards adults, but I could see older teens who are mature and nerdy about art find something of value in it.

Another History of Art
By Anita Kunz
Fantagraphics, 2021
Publisher Age Rating:  Adult

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

  • Tanya

    | She/Her

    Tanya work as a librarian at a maximum security prison in Northern California. She runs a weekly book club which changes themes and genres on a quarterly basis. Her favorite book club moment was watching her book club members perform a play in front of an audience and getting a warm ovation. Tanya is a long-time lover of Manga and animes. Her favorites include anything by Clamp, Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf Children, Pandora Hearts and Dawn of the Arcana. In her spare time enjoys trying out new recipes from Pinterest.

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