The Marfield Prize

The Marfield Prize






The National Award for Arts Writing, also known as the Marfield Prize, recognizes the author of an outstanding nonfiction book about the visual, literary, media, or performing arts. This $10,000 prize is designed to recognize excellence in arts writing for a broad audience.

Intended to help increase access to the arts, the award celebrates prose that is clear and inspiring, creating a strong connection with the arts and artists. The prize honors accessible nonfiction books first published in the United States by an author who is living at the time of the book’s nomination.

Books are judged by a distinguished, independent panel of writers. Past judges have included Alan Cheuse, Rita Dove, Richard Ford, Jamaica Kincaid, Joyce Carol Oates, Nancy Pearl, Robert Pinsky, and Ira Silverberg.

The winning author is invited to Washington, DC, for a short residency that includes an awards ceremony, a presentation to a DC public high school, an interview, and a public reading at the Arts Club of Washington. Expenses are paid by the club.

For more information, please email Ito Briones, Chair of the Marfield Prize 2018,

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)

First given in 2006, the prize’s endowment was established by longtime Arts Club member Jeannie S. Marfield in honor of Florence Berryman and Helen Wharton.

Publishers, agents, or authors may submit books for consideration. The deadline is October 15 of each year.

Please note: Books published in 2018 may now be submitted for the 2019 award cycle.



Books must be nonfiction titles written in English for a general audience by a single, living author and originally published in the United States during the current calendar year. Books may be about any artistic discipline (visual, literary, performing, or media arts, as well as cross-disciplinary works).

We seek art history and criticism, biographies and memoirs, and essays.

Anthologies, creative works of fiction or poetry, books for children, exhibition catalogs, and self-published books are not eligible.

Books scheduled to be published between the deadline of October 15 and December 31 may be sent in galley form. Please do not include promotional materials. All submitted material becomes the property of the Arts Club of Washington and will not be returned.



Publishers, agents, or authors may submit books for consideration. There is no entry fee.

Three copies of the book should be submitted with the Marfield Prize Submission Form. Nominations must be received by October 15.


Mail entries in a sturdy box to:

Ito Briones, Chair of the Marfield Prize 2018
The Marfield Prize / National Award for Arts Writing
Arts Club of Washington
2017 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20006-1804

Download the Marfield Prize Submission Form



All books must be:

  • Nonfiction titles about any artistic discipline
  • Accessible to a broad audience of non-specialist readers
  • First edition books written by a single author
  • Published first in the United States during the current calendar year
  • Written in English, not a translation

The following are not eligible:

  • Self-published books
  • Anthologies
  • Creative works of fiction or poetry
  • Books for children
  • Exhibition catalogs
  • Glossaries
  • Academic publications
  • Translations
  • Books published prior to 2018
  • Books first published outside of the U.S.
  • Books with more than one author

For questions or additional information, please email



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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