2016 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Winner

Nancy Princenthal for Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art (Thames & Hudson) Read an excerpt »

The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is awarded for excellence in the art of biography. This prize of $5,000 will go to the author of a distinguished work published in the United States during the previous calendar year. The winning title should be a work of exceptional literary, narrative and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.

From the Judges' Citation

Agnes Martin, one of the leading abstract painters of the 20th century, is known for spare, contemplative paintings that typically consist of straight lines inscribed on a canvas. Nancy Princenthal, a veteran art critic, has appropriated Martin’s measured style as her own in her fascinating biography of the artist. Among the book’s many virtues is its refusal to sensationalize mental illness. For much of her adult life, Martin heard interior voices and suffered from schizophrenia. Rather than exploiting the facile cliché that views madness as a source of artistic inspiration, Princenthal explains how Martin’s illness threatened to derail her art, and had to be overcome. All in all, a careful and caring biography that serves as a model of nuanced reflection in these screaming, insult-hurling times."

Shortlist

The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
Deborah Lutz
W. W. Norton & Company
Amazon | Indie Bound

 

Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art
Nancy Princenthal
Thames & Hudson
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

John le Carré: The Biography
Adam Sisman
Harper Books
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

Michelle Obama: A Life
Peter Slevin
Alfred A. Knopf
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva
Rosemary Sullivan
Harper Books
Amazon | Indie Bound

 

Longlist

In Search of Sir Thomas Browne: The Life and Afterlife of the Seventeenth Century's Most Inquiring Mind
Hugh Aldersey-Williams
W. W. Norton & Company
Amazon | Indie Bound

Joan of Arc: A History
Helen Castor
Harper Books
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

Sinatra: The Chairman
James Kaplan
Doubleday
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
Deborah Lutz
W. W. Norton & Company
Amazon | Indie Bound

Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press
James McGrath Morris
Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art
Nancy Princenthal
Thames & Hudson
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

Eqbal Ahmad: Critical Outsider in a Turbulent Age
Stuart Schaar
Columbia University Press
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

John le Carré: The Biography
Adam Sisman
Harper Books
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

Michelle Obama: A Life
Peter Slevin
Alfred A. Knopf
Amazon | Indie Bound
 

Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva
Rosemary Sullivan
Harper Books
Amazon | Indie Bound

2016 Judges

Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, Princeton University, is the author of seven books, including The History of White People and Sojourner Truth, A Life, A Symbol. A Guggenheim and Fulbright fellow, she has also been president of the Organization of American Historians. In 2009 she earned a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, and, in 2011 an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, both in painting. She lives and works in Newark, New Jersey.

Deborah Solomon is a nationally-known critic and biographer. Her book American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell was shortlisted for the 2014 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. Her book Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell will be re-issued in a new edition in October 2015. She is currently writing a biography of the artist Jasper Johns. A former columnist for The New York Times Magazine, she is the art critic of WNYC Public Radio and lives in New York City.

Simon Winchester is the New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman. His recent titles include Atlantic and The Men Who United the States. His most recent book, Pacific, was published by HarperCollins in October 2015. Winchester was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to journalism and literature. He lives in Massachusetts and New York City.

 

Past Winners

Janet Malcom, Richard Brody, Michael Scammell, Stacy Schiff, Robert K. Massie, Tom Reiss, Linda Leavell, and Anna Whitelock.

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.

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