The Marfield Prize

The Marfield Prize



2020 National Award for Arts Writing

The Arts Club of Washington announces the recipient for the fifteenth Marfield Prize, the National Award for Arts Writing, to Maggie Doherty for The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s (Knopf).

The Marfield Prize, sponsored by the Arts Club of Washington, recognizes the author of an outstanding nonfiction book about the arts published in 2020. This $10,000 prize is designed to highlight excellence in arts writing for a general audience.

This year the fifteenth annual Marfield Prize was judged by Alice McDermott, National Book Award finalist, and winner of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for American Literature; Terence Winch, winner of an American Book Award, and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing; and Ron Charles, book critic of The Washington Post.

Maggie Doherty will participate in a brief virtual residency that includes an interview with Poet Laureate of Maryland Grace Cavalieri, host of the Library of Congress’ podcast, The Poet and the Poem, and an online award event that will take place on the evening of June 4th, 2021.

Additional information and registration details regarding the online award event will be made available soon.

For more information, please visit

Complete list of past recipients of the award are:

  • Wendy Lesser for You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2017)
  • Rachel Corbett for You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (W. W. Norton & Company: 2016)
  • Michael Riedel for Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway (Simon & Schuster: 2015)
  • Philip Gefter for Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe (Liveright: 2014)
  • Sherill Tippins for Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2013)
  • Anne-Marie O’Connor for The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (Knopf: 2012)
  • Yael Tamar Lewin for Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins (Wesleyan University Press: 2011)
  • R. Tripp Evans for Grant Wood: A Life (Alfred A. Knopf: 2010)
  • Linda Gordon for Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (W. W. Norton & Company: 2009)
  • Brenda Wineapple for White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Anchor: 2008)
  • Michael Sragow for Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master (Pantheon: 2008)
  • Jenny Uglow for Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2007)
  • Scott Reynolds Nelson for Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry — The Untold Story of an American Legend (Oxford University Press: 2006)



Rachel Corbett Discusses You Must Change Your Life with Grace Cavalieri at the Library of Congress

Listen to Audio Podcast (28:49 minutes)
You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (W. W. Norton & Company) is a vivid biography of the young and then-unknown poet Rainer Maria Rilke and the notorious sculptor who served as his mentor. The book traces their surprising friendship and heartbreaking rift, having met when a penniless Rilke came to Paris in 1906 to research and write a short biography of Rodin. What resulted was an instant and unexpected synergy about art and creativity during the dawn of modernism in Paris. Written in luminous prose and drawing on extensive research, Corbett provides a glimpse into the origins of some of Rilke’s beloved poems, as well as the risks and rewards of the artistic life.

Michael Riedel Discusses Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway with Grace Cavalieri at the Library of Congress

Listen to Audio Podcast (28:55 minutes)
Razzle Dazzle (Simon & Schuster) is a vivid biography of Broadway itself, told through a history of the venerable Shubert Organization. It is full of larger-than-life characters, like Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld, who took over leadership of the production company in the 1970s, when both Broadway and New York City were at low points. They went on to revitalize Times Square, change the face of New York, and produce many of Broadway’s most iconic productions. Drawing on extensive interviews and research, Riedel creates a comprehensive insider’s look, exposing bitter rivalries, unlikely alliances, and of course, scintillating gossip.

Philip Gefter Discusses Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe with Grace Cavalieri at the Library of Congress

Listen to Audio Podcast (28:28 minutes)

“The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress” is now celebrating 38 years on air, founded and still produced by poet Grace Cavalieri. This recorded program features an interview with 2014 Marfield Prize Winner Philip Gefter who discusses the life of photography collector Sam Wagstaff with selected readings from the winning book Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe.


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