In the March issue of Notes from the Horn Book, in honor of Women’s History Month, I picked out some recent picture-book biographies focusing on women who left their marks on society. Another worthy offering is Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys (Cameron + Company, December 2012) by Amy Novesky, author of the 2012 Boston Globe–Horn Book nonfiction honor book, Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased. Novesky presents the story of early-twentieth-century photographer Imogen Cunningham, who, like O’Keeffe, was a pinnacle (female) figure in Modern art.
Cunningham came from a family that “didn’t have much,” but when as a teenager she declared that she wanted to be a photographer, her father built her a darkroom. The book chronicles her start in photography, her marriage, and giving birth to her three sons, but overall focuses on the ways Cunningham balanced — and integrated — her art with her family life. Novesky has a special knack for conveying an artist’s life and craft in simple prose; through spare text she captures how Cunningham “found a little beauty in everything,” especially the everyday activities of her sons. Illustrator Lisa Congdon’s homespun-looking art — often laid out in a photo scrapbook–like format — is similarly subdued, nicely embodying Cunningham’s subjects. This ultimately optimistic story of one woman’s success, personal fulfillment, and artistic legacy is supplemented by an appended biographical note and a few additional resources for exploration (including the URL of the Imogen Cunningham Trust website).
For even more recommended biographies, see our updated Women’s History Month reading list.