Held each year in July, Disability Pride Month coincides with the anniversary of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law on July 26, 1990. In celebration, the Frick Art Reference Library has compiled a recommended reading list of monographs and exhibition catalogs that highlight people with disabilities throughout art history.
With subjects ranging from Francisco de Goya and Vincent van Gogh to Martín Ramírez and Yayoi Kusama, the featured titles illuminate important contributions to art of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and to the Post-Impressionist and Post-Modern movements.
The list below includes e-books as well as physical books, which are available for consultation with a free appointment to our reading room at Frick Madison.
Martín Ramírez: The Last Works
By Brooke Davis Anderson (2008)
This publication explores more than 130 works by Mexican-born artist Martín Ramírez (1895–1963) that were produced shortly before his death and were discovered in 2007. Ramírez, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, is considered one of the self-taught masters of twentieth-century art. While much of his life after immigrating to the United States was spent at the DeWitt State Hospital in Northern California, Ramírez assembled memories, cultural iconography, and personal symbols in his art, using an array of paper surfaces with improvised adhesives and scavenged pencils and markers to create collages with remarkable expressive power.
A poética de Arthur Bispo do Rosário: compêndio de encantamentos do mundo
(The Poetry of Arthur Bispo do Rosário: Compendium of Enchantments of the World)
By Ricardo Alexandre Rodrigues (2014)
Arthur Bispo do Rosário (1909–1989) was a Brazilian artist who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1938. Bispo created a large body of work consisting of mixed-media hanging or freestanding sculptures and other objects, including hand-embroidered textiles with assorted attached elements, such as beads and strings. This Portuguese-language book chronicles how, by the end of his life, he used found materials to make more than 800 extraordinary objects.
Spirit: The Life and Art of Jesse Treviño
By Anthony Head (2019)
Author Anthony Head examines the life and work of Jesus “Jesse” Treviño (b. 1946), a contemporary Mexican American artist based in San Antonio, Texas. Treviño has been painting since he was six years old, and his photorealistic murals depict the life and culture of his city’s Chicano community. Treviño studied at the New York City Art Students League prior to being drafted, in 1966, to serve in Vietnam, where he was seriously wounded during the war. This intimate portrait of the artist guides the reader through his early years growing up in a segregated city, his experience in Vietnam, and his dynamic ability to tell narratives of the Mexican American community as he asks himself, “What is truly important? What will last? How can one live forever?”
Perception: An Exhibition of Sculpture for the Sighted and Blind
By the California Arts Commission (1971)
Dive into this catalog for a 1971 traveling exhibition of the Touring Art Gallery for the Sighted and Blind, entitled Perception. The exhibition included twenty-three works of art representing a variety of interpretations of the human form. With selections whose dates of creation spanned 2,500 years, the show explored the diversity of humans’ conceptions of the body. It enabled visitors to touch the included pieces to understand nuances in form, texture, and emotion in each work of art, with an aim of expanding the horizons of both sighted viewers and those with low vision or blindness.
A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster Jr.
By Harlan Lane (2004)
In this book, Harlan Lane, a hearing psychologist and researcher of Deaf culture, recounts the life of John Brewster Jr. (1766–1854), a prolific Deaf portraitist who painted families in post-Revolutionary New England. Lane explores Brewster’s positions at the intersections of the Puritan world, the federalist elite, the Deaf community, and the art world. At age fifty-one, Brewster attended the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut, the first such school in the country, cited as the birthplace of American Sign Language (ASL). Lane considers Brewster’s contributions to art and society in his era and how he navigated, personally and professionally, the early days of Deaf education and culture in the United States.
La Folie de Vincent van Gogh
By Victor Doiteau, Edgar Leroy, and Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet (1928)
Written in French with contributions by Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet—physician to Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890) during the last few weeks of his life—this text provides an intimate study of the preeminent painter’s mental illnesses, a famed but misunderstood aspect of his life. According to Dr. Gachet, the beauty of Van Gogh’s art was such that anyone could look upon it but few could grasp the ways in which his depression affected his expression. The memoir includes an analysis of the artist’s psychosis and narrates the events that he believed may have influenced the development of his depression.
Untitled: The Art of James Castle (2014)
James Castle (1899–1977) is considered one of the most enigmatic American artists of the twentieth century. Published on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, essays in this catalog by Nicholas Bell and Leslie Umberger examine the untitled nature of Castle’s works. A self-taught artist, Castle was born Deaf and expressed himself primarily through evocative works on paper created from gathered materials found around his family’s home in rural Garden Valley, Idaho. Bell explores the artist’s landscapes and interiors to better understand Castle’s experience of space, time, and memory, while Umberger analyzes his reception in the art world, as curators and collectors grapple with balancing his creative output and the defining events of his life.
The work of prolific Romantic artist Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828) spans more than sixty years and a variety of media, including drawings, oil paintings, etchings, and lithographs. Despite his notoriety, few may know that his life and work changed profoundly in the winter of 1792–93, when he developed a mysterious illness at the age of forty-six that, while not immediately life-threatening, caused him to lose his hearing. It was around this time that he made a number of canvases depicting mental asylums and, a decade later, produced his so-called “Black Paintings” on the walls of La Quinta del Sordo (“Deaf Man’s Villa”), a period that the Frick’s Forge presages. This catalog from an exhibition held at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland, brings together a group of works—comprising approximately seventy paintings and over one hundred rarely seen drawings and prints—that highlights Goya’s many artistic periods and his observations between reason and irrationality, reality and the imagination.
Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958–1968 (1998)
Named one of the world’s most influential people by Time Magazine in 2016, contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) has cited using her art as a therapeutic tool for mental illness. Kusama began to see and hear hallucinations in high school, accompanied by obsessive-compulsive disorder, and her creative expression became a means with which to process and understand her experiences. This catalog for a 1998 exhibition of the same name held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art examines a pivotal decade in the artist’s life. Featuring several essays, the authors discuss the artistic, cultural, and psychological import of Kusama’s New York period; detail her association with the 1960s European avant-garde; and investigate her Japanese artistic influences.
Viva la Frida! Life and Art of Frida Kahlo (2021)
The monumental reach of the renowned artist Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) is a natural addition to this list. Published alongside the 2021–22 exhibition of the same name held at the Drents Museum in Assen, in the Netherlands, this catalog features more than fifty paintings and drawings by Kahlo, as well as personal belongings including the decorated corsets and prostheses that she wore due to injuries from a serious accident at a young age. Through these items, the viewer catches a glimpse of the intensity of her self-expression—which overflowed beyond her canvases into her daily life and possessions—as well as the influences that led her to develop a unique artistic voice.
All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection