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2016 Marfield Prize


The Arts Club of Washington is pleased to announce that Rachel Corbett is the recipient of the eleventh annual Marfield Prize, the National Award for Arts Writing, for her book You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (W. W. Norton & Company).

Corbett travels to Washington in May for a brief residency, including a free public discussion of her book at the club on May 3 at 6:30 p.m., and the Marfield Award Dinner on May 4 at 6:30 p.m., an event for club members and their guests hosted by television and radio personality Robert Aubry Davis, one of the judges for the award. Corbett also will meet with students at a local public high school and participate in an interview with Grace Cavalieri, host of the Library of Congress’ podcast, “The Poet and the Poem.”

You Must Change Your Life wondrously reveals a neglected relationship between two masters of their art forms, the elder reinventor of sculpture at the turn of the 20th century, Auguste Rodin, and the visionary German poet Rainer Maria Rilke,” Davis says. “Rachel Corbett has woven this tale of their lives, and the women who were crucial in this story, with all the rough-hewn muscularity of a Rodin masterpiece merged with the twilight grace of a Rilke poem.”

Rachel Corbett is editor in chief of Modern Painters magazine. Her writing also has appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times, The Art Newspaper, New York Magazine, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. You Must Change Your Life is her first book.

The Marfield Prize, sponsored by the Arts Club of Washington, recognizes the author of an outstanding nonfiction book about the arts published in the previous calendar year. This $10,000 prize is designed to recognize excellence in arts writing for a general audience and is one of the highest monetary awards for a single-author book.

This year’s award judges are Robert Aubry Davis, creator and host of the public radio show “Millennium of Music” and host and moderator of WETA TV’s arts-discussion program, “Around Town”; W. Ralph Eubanks, author of Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi’s Dark Past and The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South; and Matthea Harvey, author of five books of poetry and two books for children, including If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? and Modern Life, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Corbett’s book was selected from a field of finalists that include:

Jane Kamensky, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley (W. W. Norton & Company)

Alexander Nemerov, Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine (Princeton University Press)

Claudia Roth Pierpont, American Rhapsody: Writers, Musicians, Movie Stars, and One Great Building (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Paul Youngquist, A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism (University of Texas Press)


About the National Award for Arts Writing

The National Award for Arts Writing is given annually by the Arts Club of Washington to the author of a nonfiction book about the visual, literary, or performing arts. Works first published in the United States during the previous calendar year are eligible. Established to generate broader interest in the arts among general readers, the award celebrates prose that is clear and inspiring, creating a strong connection with the arts and artists. 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.

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

Publishers, agents, or authors may submit books for consideration for the next award cycle. The deadline is October 1 of each year. Full guidelines and the submission form can be found at

About the Arts Club of Washington

Headquartered in the James Monroe House, a National Historic Landmark, the Arts Club of Washington was founded in 1916 and is the oldest nonprofit arts organization in the city. The club’s mission is to generate public appreciation for and participation in the arts in the nation’s capital. More information about the Marfield Prize and the Arts Club of Washington is available at

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