Great Modern Artists A-Z is an illustrated guide to some of the key artists of the 20th and 21st century. Much like Phaidon’s hugely popular The Art Book, this compilation is a succinct introduction to a range of artists, simply arranged to make it easy to dip in wherever your interest takes you. Great Modern Artists A-Z differs in two key ways however; it narrows its selection to modern artists (20th and 21st century), and each artist is introduced with an illustrated portrait by the author (and graphic designer) Andy Tuohy. The narrowing of its focus makes the book more cohesive than its predecessor, and Tuohy’s bold graphic accompaniments bring a novel and appealing visual thread to the book.

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Great Modern Artists A-Z gives an overview of 52 of the twentieth century’s most important and interesting artists. Most will be well known names, such as Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, while others may be new to many readers – Ibrahim El-Salahi and Zhang Xiaogang, for example. While there is a decent effort at including a geographically-diverse selection, there are disappointingly few female artists featured. Of the 52 entries, only six women are included (Bourgeois, Choucair, Hepworth, Kahlo, Kusama and O’Keeffe).


Tuohy admits in his preface the inevitable problem of omission when featuring such a small number of artists. Art historian Christopher Masters assisted in the book’s final selection, and the pair based their decisions on the artist’s ‘profound and lasting impact on the art world’. The scarcity of female artists is perhaps more a reflection of the historic exclusion of women from the art world’s higher echelons than of Tuohy and Masters’ selection, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.

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Each artist has a decent biographical entry, generally two pages long, with several illustrations of their work. Helpfully, each entry also indicates the best galleries in which to find work by each artist, and each artist also has a ‘Did You Know?’ sidebar, usually containing a fun anecdote or surprising detail from the artist’s life (such as: did you know that Lucian Freud used to throw bread rolls at fellow diners if he thought they were photographing him?). Great Modern Artists A-Z  is a fun and accessible entry point to modern artists which will serve many as a useful guide to modern art and its practitioners.


Published by Octopus, Great Modern Artists A-Z is available to buy online here.