Artist Samantha Hahn has been a hypnotizing fixture on the Cut, using the delicate, dreamy, and “immediate” medium of watercolors to capture everything from outfits fresh off the Fashion Week runways to detailed makeup looks from backstage. The New York native’s latest endeavor is a book entitled Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines, which is filled with 50 stunning, full-page illustrations of literature’s most recognized (and adored) ladies, paired with hand-lettered quotes from the works of fiction in which they appear. The concept for Well-Read Women sprang into Hahn’s mind after she completed a solo show called “A Thousand Ships” dedicated to Helen of Troy. “I was imagining who she was, this face that launched a thousand ships, a woman whose beauty had so much power,” she told the Cut. “That sort of led to the idea that she didn’t really have a voice, and I wanted to go in further and focus on these other amazing, fictional female characters.” Her show included some of her favorite fictional characters, like Anne Shirley, Holly Golightly, Edna Pontellier, Esther Greenwood, and Clarissa Dalloway.
Over the next two years, Hahn carefully culled together the 50 women in her book by meeting the characters for the first time (or the fiftieth) through the pages of their books, experiencing their lives, and finding a way to capture both their souls and appearances based on the authors’ descriptions alone. “[The portraits] are so much about them and their character,” she explained. “I can relate to so many of them because I feel like there’s a commonality in that they’re all women struggling against the constraints of society, trying to find their voice, express themselves, find love, find creativity. As an artist, I’m exploring them from an emotional standpoint. Their characters are so well portrayed by the author that it’s so much more about their personality and who they are.” The book will go on sale on August 27, but is available for preorder here. Click through the slideshow for a first look at the ethereal illustrations — from Nancy Drew to Lady Kiritsubo — and see your favorite fictional women come to life.