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Pick of the paperbacks; The Obstacle Race, by Germaine Greer. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $12. 95.

Germain Greer puts her best (feminist) foot forward in these 327 pages devoted to women painters. She attributes the anonymity of many female "greats" to the obstacles they faced -- obstacles which prevented the female artists' own creative style and development. Sweeping through the cloisters of the Middle Ages, past the family dynasties of Renaissance artists, and up to the 20th century, the text weaves the impact of social environment with many brief biographies and reprints (some in color) of the artists' paintings. One problem: there are too many threads in this literary tapestry to give each subject the attention it deserves.

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