17.12.06

Artemisia Gentileschi

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When I took an Art History class early in my college career, there was a moment of clarity and excitement when I was introduced to the work of Artemisia Gentileschi. I was captured by the images she painted so long ago. Even outside of class I found myself going to the library sniffing out books about her and trying to find out about her life.

Not only is her work unbelievable, but also, she managed to do it in 17th century Europe (She lived mainly in Italy, where she was born, but traveled a great deal throughout Europe.). This was a time when women had no rights at all. The world was run by men and women were considered the property of their husbands. It's amazing to me that she had the moxy to achieve all that she did. She was a strong woman-an amazing woman-and that is what I love best about her.

Here is an example of her artwork:

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This one happens to be my favorite work of hers. Perhaps because it was the first one I saw and in that moment of captivation it imprinted itself on my mind, but regardless, it's amazing. She mastered the art of chiaroscuro, which is basically making the figures in the paintings seem lit of their own accord-as if they materialized out of the darkness in the background. I love this effect. My favorite thing about Baroque Art.

Some say that the violence depicted in this picture was a sort of psychological revenge against the tutor her father, Orazio Gentileschi, had hired to further her painting. His name was Agostino Tassi. Her father did this because I'm sure he could see her talent and she was denied attendance to the all-male professional academies of art simply because she was a woman. Tassi raped her and then reneged on his promise of marriage causing Artemisia to be put through unspeakable tortures. The thought at the time being that if a person's story remains the same under unbearable torture then the truth of their claim is verified. Pretty twisted thinking, but she survived it and not only survived, but flourished as a painter. Traveling all over Europe and gaining the respect of her all-male peers and some crowned heads of Europe. Notably, Charles I, King of England, was pretty much obsessed with her.

As a survivor of multiple rapes, I've adopted her as my personal heroine. She is an example of a strong, beautiful woman who flourished in her milieu despite the circumstances surrounding her and the terrible crime that was foisted on her. I wish I had a fingernail's amount of her courage.

Lastly, here is a self-portrait she did (I don't know if there are others, but I can imagine that there must be.):

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If y'all want to know more about this amazing woman go here or, to this really cool site that has info and examples of paintings not only from Artemisia, but also tons of other artists: Art In The Picture.com. If you love art like I do, or even if you don't know anything about art this site is well worth your time. Last night (actually early this morning), I spent at least an hour poking around on it. I have it bookmarked and I'm definitely going to be going back there to poke my nose into the lives and art of some other painters I know and the ones I don't know. I feel like a kid in a candy store.



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