Artemisia, Exhibition, National Gallery, London: 3 October 2020-24 January 2021

At a time when the world of art was dominated by men, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593- c.1656) defied expectations by becoming one of the most successful European painters of the 17th-century. The National Gallery will host the first major exhibition dedicated to her work in the UK.

Artemisia was born in Rome in 1593 and spent her childhood surrounded by the work of her father, Orazio Gentileschi, who was also an artist. Artemisia was a Baroque painter- a movement that focused on detail and extravagance- and began her career in 1616 after becoming the first woman to be a member of the Academy of the Arts of Drawing in Florence.

You’ll notice that many of her paintings are of female heroines, such as her violent painting ‘Judith beheading Holofernes’ which portrays a widow killing a general who was about to destroy her home. Artemisia also painted about the events in her own life, and the torture wheel that you’ll notice in her ‘Self-portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria’, for example, symbolises the trauma of her rape trial in 1616 where her fingers were crushed to force her to tell the truth. Artemisia’s work was so popular that she eventually went on to paint for various kings across Europe, including Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England. 

In this exhibition you’ll be able to follow the footsteps of Artemisia’s career, giving you the chance to relive the pain, happiness and success she went through during her life. 

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, c. 1615-18 © Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, c. 1615-18 © Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
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