Rosamond Purcell: Nature Stands Aside

The first comprehensive book in more than twenty years of the artist’s haunting and textural photographic work, published to accompany a major retrospective at the Addison Gallery of American Art.

A definitive monograph to accompany the first museum survey of the renowned photographer and conceptual artist Rosamond Purcell (b. 1942), known for her strangely beautiful, often unsettling photographs of objects from the natural and man-made world.
With more than 150 illustrations, the book reflects the breadth of the artist’s career from the late 1960s to the present day, and includes photographs, assemblages, collages, and installations that serve to illuminate and explore the shifting boundaries between art and science. From large-format Polaroid prints to objects rescued from obscurity, Purcell’s empathetic, evocative, multifaceted work explores the interstices between the unsettling and the sublime, the beautiful and the bizarre, the natural and the manufactured.
With thoughtful and insightful texts from an eclectic list of critical voices—including the acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris and the writer Christoph Irmscher—and featuring an interview between Purcell and fellow contemporary artist Mark Dion, this book rejuvenates the critical approach Purcell’s work and brings to light the evolution of a remarkable career.

About The Author

Gordon Wilkins is the Robert M. Walker Associate Curator of American Art at the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, Andover. Mark Dion is an American conceptual artist living and working in New York. Christoph Irmscher is a writer and biographer, and the author of The Poetics of Natural History, with photographs by Rosamond Purcell. Errol Morris is an Academy Award–winning American documentary filmmaker. Belinda Rathbone is a writer, historian, and critic of photography.

  • Publish Date: September 13, 2022
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Category: Photography - Individual Photographers - Monographs
  • Publisher: Rizzoli Electa
  • Trim Size: 9-1/2 x 11
  • Pages: 208
  • US Price: $65.00
  • CDN Price: $85.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8478-7228-2


“Expect to be overwhelmed, not just by quantity (quality, too) but also variety and, for lack of a better word, theatricality. Purcell’s profound, even exacting, respect for her subject matter doesn’t keep her from honoring it with bravura treatment. It’s hard to think of a photographer with a body of work less given to what she calls “the curse of the predictable in what was then a pre-Photoshop world.” Few things are as unpredictable as enchantment, and enchantment is what her work frequently has to offer.”BOSTON GLOBE

“What is an appropriate subject for art?” asks Errol Morris in his foreword to ROSAMOND PURCELL: NATURE STANDS Aside (Rizzoli Electa/Addison Gallery, $65). “I’m partial to death and deliquescence.” This morbid domain is Purcell’s field of operation, and her particular territory is the natural-history museums where she documents the corpora of the formerly living: birds, eggs, shells, bats, butterflies, monkeys, moles, and lizards. Her high-contrast color photos feature straightforward, portrait-style compositions—as if a group of Javanese wattled lapwings were posing for their high school club photo. There’s no need to defamiliarize a mastodon’s molar or the corpse of a pig-footed bandicoot. But this directness with its seeming lack of aesthetic inflection is deceptive. By prizing clarity and detail over compositional finesse, Purcell emphasizes the strangeness of her subjects even as her clinical approach lends an ordinariness to the viewer’s experience.” BOOKFORUM

"This monograph by notable local artist Rosamond Purcell serves as the catalogue of a spectacular career retrospective exhibition currently taking up the entire 2nd floor of the Addison Gallery in Andover until Dec. 31st. With several insightful essays as well as an interview with the artist, this book stunningly displays the evolution of this remarkable American artist." PORTER SQUARE BOOKS

Author Bookshelf: Mark Dion