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What’s in a surname? The female artists lost to history because they got married

A new biography of the painter Isabel Rawsthorne highlights how talented women have often missed out on the recognition they deserved

Generations of female artists, composers and writers have been lost to history because their names changed after marriage. According to growing academic consensus, the conventional switch of surnames at the altar has erased a key cultural legacy. And the story of the painter and designer Isabel Rawsthorne, told in a new biography, is among the first to make this powerful argument.

A star of the London art scene in the late 1940s and 50s, Rawsthorne was billed as one of five key artists to watch alongside Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Yet her striking paintings are now attached, piecemeal, to the three other names she used. As a result, she appears simply as a string of footnotes, best known as the muse of her famous lovers, the sculptors Jacob Epstein and Alberto Giacometti.

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