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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Artemisia Gentileschi's paintings combine the influence of Caravaggio, via her father, Orazio, along with her own feminine touch which allowed her to produce emotional depictions that her male counterparts could never quite master in the same way.

This famous female artist had a strong character which ensured that she never attempted to simply copy the style of existing male artists, but always to take her own unique path. Previously, most female artists have been restricted to particular genres which they were expected to work within, such as domestic scenes or still life.

Artemisia saw no such restrictions and immediately went about covering historical and mythological content which was technically much harder than other women has attempted. She had full confidence in her natural ability and knew she could pull of this challenge. Even her father ran out of things to teach her, such was her fast development and impressive god given talent. She produced artworks which belied her age, leading to some to mis-attribute some of her paintings to her father.

Gentileschi was also rare for a female artist in that she produced brutality within her paintings, delving deep into the minds of the figures in her portraits. It was unusual even for men to provide such a realistic and honest portrayal of these harrowing moments. They would shock many who saw them. Others loved the powerful nature of these scenes and immediately sought about discovering more of her work.

Some collectors would always be biased against buying work from her gender, but plenty of others saw great merit in her oeuvre and continued to follow her career as she moved around various Italian cities in search of the best environment for her career to flourish. In all, she would work in Venice, Rome, Florence and Naples, as well as a short period abroad in London, UK.

A further unique element to her paintings was how the artist would generally depict women within positions of equality, where men would normally leave women looking vulnerable and under threat. Artemisia Gentileschi would depict female figures with strength and confidence and this would help to encourage others within society of the role that women could play if given the opportunity.

She was also using these compositions to process several traumatic events from earlier in her life and perhaps found that a connection between these strong figures and also her own mind. This then makes her self portraits particularly intriguing, with some showing herself as was, whilst others involved her modelling as various famous figures from the past. She found models too expensive too hire and so would often use herself instead.

In order to achieve what she did, the artist would have to break through a number of barriers during her career. For example, she was the first woman to be accepted into the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. She found greater resistance to her work in some cities and less in others, so it made sense for her to relocate on occasion in order to continue her progression. Once she was established she actually held an international client base, with many actually embracing her differences rather than penalising her for them.

It is only from around the start of the 20th century that her art has finally started to take centrestage, as previously she was known more as the daughter of Orazio who had experienced some challenging times in her life. This website focuses on her art, and avoids diluting its qualities by focusing on other elements of her life, which has previously been the case.