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There have been few female artists more skilled or influential than Artemisia Gentileschi. She was amongst the finest 17th century Baroque painters and overcame significant gender barriers as well as significant traumas in order to forge out a succcessful career.
Travelling around Italy
Prior to that she had spent time in Rome, Florence and Venice. She even travelled to London at one point, when her father was living and working there for an extended period. The painting shown here was titled Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting and is the only London-based work that we can confidently attribute to her.
"...My illustrious lordship, i'll show you what a woman can do..."
Role as a Female Artist
But she also brought a sensitivity to her portraits that her male counterparts couldn't quite match. She could get into the mind of some of the figures in her work and use that to display their emotions more accurately and vividly. This emotional precision interested collectors who saw that she could offer something different. Whilst not all were willing to work with female artists, plenty enough were and even more so once they had seen the high quality of work that she was consistently producing.
These portraits, plus the many items of correspondence that have been uncovered from her lifetime, have enabled us to build a clear picture about her personality, which was more vulnerable than some realise when considering how she is often portrayed as a strong women in a man's world, tenaciously burrowing ever onwards. Her experiences also help to provide a comparison between the different major cities in Italy at the time, and the different ways in which they treated her career - with a combination of both encouragement and at other times, insults.
This helped to build her confidence and also to overcome some of the traumas that she had experienced earlier in life. Her work continued to be powerful and dripping in emotion, this talent never left her even as her life began to become more comfortable and enjoyable. It was not that her relationship with her father was damaged - she simply needed room to grow, both artistically and also in other avenues of her life's journey.
"...As long as I live I will have control over my being..."
It took time before she was ready to spread her wings and attempt the difficult task of establishing herself as a successful, independant female painter. Circumstances would eventually force her to take this path and she travelled to a number of Italian cities from that point onwards.
Female Renaissance Artists
This would make her acceptance harder to achieve, but all the more pleasing once obtained. Even her early works were bold and challenging, featuring multiple figures and huge bouts of emotion which left the viewer in shock. Initially, some even misattributed some of her work to her father, being unconvinced that the hand of a young woman could produce such extraordinary paintings - thankfully, this was later corrected, but served as an early warning as to the barriers that she would come up against during her career.
Women within her Portraits
As she progressed in his career there would be a slightly greater influence of femininity, perhaps as the earliest influences from her father started to fade. She is also known to have studied the work of Annibale Carracci and taken elements of his style into her own.
"...You will find the spirit of Caesar in this soul of a woman..."
These paintings could then inspire other women to realise that they do not have to accept the role as subordinate, but were all capable of fighting back. This helped to establish her as a feminine icon which has also helped to increase focus on her career in recent years, due to the changes in society around gender imbalances. The same can be said for Mexican Surrealist, Frida Kahlo.