Monday, April 4, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Artemisia

One of the great contemporaries of Caravaggio was Artemisia Gentileschi, whose paintings demonstrated some of the same skillful techniques used by Caravaggio, such as the intense tenebrism - the dramatic contrast of the light and shadow in the figures.  What set Artemisia apart from Caravaggio, and every other painter of the time for that matter, was that she was a woman.
Artemisia was born in 1593, and was the daughter of another respected painter, Orazio Gentileschi.  She was born in Rome and worked there and in Florence before she finally settled in Naples in the 1630s.  She was certainly a rare talent with a rare personality to match, as she lived a life of independence that was unthinkable for a woman in the 17th century. 
In 1610, around the age of 17, Artemisia completed one of her earliest signed works Susanna and the Elders, which was most likely a response to Rubens' painting of the same subject, which was painted a couple years before.  Later in 1612, Agostino Tassi, a teacher of Artemisia and collaborator with Orazio, was accused and tried for raping Artemisia.  Tassi was eventually convicted and imprisoned for the rape.  Later that year, Artemisia married and left Rome.
Around the age of 23 in 1616, Artemisia became the first woman to join the Accademia del Disegno.  Though described as a portraitist, few examples of her works survive from this period.  The dating of her paintings is very hazy and only a few of her earliest works have a clear date assigned to them.  From 1620 onward, there are only a few surviving paintings whose dates span over the years.  One of the earliest paintings from Naples that she signed and dated was The Annunciation.  Later on in the 1630s, she had started completing fewer works, and had traveled to England for a while to care for her elderly father until his death in 1639.  Artemisia lived out the rest of her life in Naples, and though we only have a few of her works in existence today, she certainly built up a strong reputation in Europe as one of the great masters of the Caravaggesque Baroque, and perhaps the greatest, if not the only female name in 17th century painting.

Artemisia Gentileschi
Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting
oil on canvas
97 x 74 cm

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