Artists through the ages: Artemisia Gentileschi

Posted: November 21, 2012 in Art, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

The life of an artist and the works they produce can teach us so much about writing. And it doesn’t have to be boring! Check out the latest post in this series: “Artists through the ages: Botticelli.”

It was only a matter of time before I got to Artemisia Gentileschi. She’s one of my all-time favorite artists, and definitely my favorite female artist. If you guys don’t remember it, I raved about her over on Jessica’s blog a while back.

Artemisia lived from the late 1500s to the mid-1600s. She was a talented Italian painter who was lucky enough to get noticed in a time that was dominated by male artists. She was an exceptional talent and her resistance of the idea that women did not have the intelligence to be an artist paved the way to recognition and admiration, both during her time and after. Her story is a sad one, having been raped when she was 18. But instead of hiding away, she took part in a trial to put the man behind bars (though this was eventually unsuccessful) and used her experiences to influence her paintings, which were quite violent and expressive.

Interesting facts:

  1. She was tortured with thumbscrews while on trial for her rape.
  2. She received commissions from both the Medici family and Charles I.
  3. She was the first woman accepted into the Academy of the Arts and Drawing.
  4. Her actions and life are often praised by contemporary feminists.
  5. She frequently worked with her father, and they shared a competitive but close bond.

Artemisia is best known for Judith Slaying Holofernes. Another great one is Susanna and the Elders, and I quite like Minerva too.

There’s just one quote from her that I decided to use today because I think it is profound and appropriate and there’s no reason to bother with any others when this is perfect all by itself.

“As long as I live, I will have control over my being.”

Now, obviously the feminists in the crowd go crazy over this one. It has its implications, which I think are fitting. I think its face-value is important to note, but I also think that there’s so much more to this too.

It’s not just about the physical being, the body. It’s also about her spiritual being: her life, her imagination, her art. And if we take this idea and apply it to our lives, we can also insert the word writing in there.

As long as you are alive and capable, you have control over your writing. Your writing is just that: your. writing. No one can tell you what to write about if you don’t let them. And, better yet, no one can hold you back but yourself.

Think of Artemisia and everything that she went through. She was a young girl in Italy in the 17th century. She was raped. Then she was put on a public trial and tortured. She “won” the case, but the man never served time. She was an artist that most didn’t take seriously at first, if ever. She had to fight for every inch of her dream and she never stopped fighting.

If she could do all that, what’s holding us back, if only ourselves?

  1. She’s one of my favorite painters! Such beautiful work and a beautiful profile of her. 🙂 Btw, tagged you in a blog hop 🙂 Hope you like it.

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