Sunday, October 10, 2010


One of the earliest paintings attributed to Artemesia Gentileschi

Reading an occasional book gives me a break from my creative activities. My friend Sally gave me her copy of a book titled Artemisia, by Alexandra Lapierre.  Artemisia Gentileschi was a female painter living and working in Italy 1593-1653. The list of artists painting at the same time, she worked and competed with is amazing.

The story of her life got my attention immediately. The life of an artist was so difficult back then, having to make their own paints and supplies, finding people to commission and purchase your work, difficulties of working with patrons and having the Catholic Church limit the subjects that are appropriate for your work. As a young woman, she wasn't even allowed to be seen by young men. She was kept behind closed doors and windows. Social life and dating was nonexistant.

Her father was a famous painter and taught his daughter everything about his art. As she matured, she became a more accomplished artist than her father, Orazio. Many of their works in Italy and England are their collaborations, and still exist today.

The book was translated from the French language. it doesn't take long for you to accept all the foreign phrases, and you become fascinated by her life. It was well documented because of a rape trial and her membership in arts organizations of the time. She was a woman well ahead of her time.

Since finishing the book, I've looked up images of her known paintings. In my opinion, her subjects are awful, some violent, but she was still an amazing painter. Her colors are rich, fabrics beautifully rendered, her human figures are skillfully detailed.  Imagine what she might have painted if she was alive today? What subjects would she have chosen without the restrictions of her time period. Reading this story makes me appreciate my life as a woman and an artist working in the USA. The freedoms we enjoy today make our creative lives so much easier. Imagine wanting to make a quilt. First you have to spin the wool or cotton, grow and make the dyes for the fabric, dye and print the fabric, before even beginning to cut anything out.  And no electricity!

Here is a link to a website dedicated to her life and work. If you read this book, stick with it for the first few chapters, it will catch your interest soon. I was sorry when I was finished with the book.


1 comment:

Glen QuiltSwissy said...

Wow! My book club read this book last year. I loved it! I still think of the book when I hear about current US cabinet member whose name is Katherine Sebelius. That was the thumbscrew they tightened on her fingers during the trial in the beginning of the book!