Photo: Artemisia Gentileschi channelled personal trauma into her art. (Getty: Universal Images Group)
An Italian seventeenth-century Baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi’s paintings are “full of rage, of feminist anger”, Murray say.
While many women of her generation were expected to be little more than nuns, Gentileschi instead became an accomplished artist. She was the first woman to be admitted to the prestigious art academy, Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, in Florence.
Her paintings, Murray writes, typically depict strong female characters — whether they’re enacting revenge on men (Judith Slaying Holofernes) or re-imagining biblical scenes (Susanna and the Elders).
Painting of Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, located in the Vasari Corridor in Florence.
Photo: Gentileschi’s take of this biblical account is considered more visceral than that of other artists. (Getty: Alinari Archives)
As a young woman, Gentileschi was sexually assaulted by another painter, Agostino Tassi.
She successfully pressed charges against him and he was convicted of rape in 1612.
“She used biblical stories to portray, in exquisite paintings, her fury at the sexual violence she herself had endured,” Murray writes.”I have no doubt that much of her work was inspired by events that could only have happened to a woman, particularly the terrible sexual violence she experiences as a teenager.”
But, she adds, “it would be wrong to assume her fame and appreciation was purely a result of her notoriety and vengefulness”.