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One of O: The Oprah Magazine's Top Books of Summer

"Old in Art School is a glorious achievement -- bighearted and critical, insightful and entertaining. This book is a cup of courage for everyone who wants to change their lives." -- Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow

Following her retirement from Princeton University, celebrated historian Dr. Nell Irvin Painter surprised everyone in her life by returning to school -- in her sixties -- to earn a BFA and MFA in painting. In Old in Art School, she travels from her beloved Newark to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design; finds meaning in the artists she loves, even as she comes to understand how they may be undervalued; and struggles with the unstable balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully lived.

How are women and artists seen and judged by their age, looks, and race? What does it mean when someone says, "You will never be an artist"? Who defines what "An Artist" is and all that goes with such an identity, and how are these ideas tied to our shared conceptions of beauty, value, and difference?

Old in Art School is Nell Painter's ongoing exploration of those crucial questions. Bringing to bear incisive insights from two careers, Painter weaves a frank, funny, and often surprising tale of her move from academia to art.



About the Author

Nell Irvin Painter

Nell Irvin Painter is an American historian notable for her works on southern history of the nineteenth century. She is retired from Princeton University, and served as president of the Organization of American Historians. She also served as president of the Southern Historical Association. She was born Nell Irvin to Dona and Frank E. Irvin, Sr. She had an older brother Frank who died young. Her family moved from Houston, Texas, to Oakland, California when she was ten weeks old. This was part of the second wave of the Great Migration of millions of African Americans from the Deep South to urban centers. Some of their relatives had been in California since the 1920s. The Irvins went to California in the 1940s with the pull of increasing jobs in the defense industry. Nell attended the Oakland Public Schools. Her mother Dona Irvin held a degree from Houston College for Negroes (1937) , and later taught in the public schools of Oakland. Her father had to drop out of college in 1937 during the Great Depression; he eventually trained for work as a laboratory technician. He worked for years at the University of California at Berkeley, where he trained many students in lab techniques. Painter earned her B.A. - Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964. During her undergraduate years, she studied French medieval history at the University of Bordeaux, France, 1962-63. She also studied abroad at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, 1965-66. In 1967, she completed an M.A. at the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1974, she earned an M.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard University. She returned to study and earned a B.F.A. at Rutgers University in 2009. Painter has received honorary degrees from Dartmouth College, Wesleyan University, and Yale University, among other institutions.In 1989, Painter married the mathematician Glenn Shafer, co-creator of the Dempster-Shafer theory.(from Wikipedia)



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