The Influence of A. Gentileschi’s Self-Portraits on Early Feminist History

Introduction

The emergence of feminism was accompanied or, as it is often said, provoked by certain trends in art. One of the most famous painters, who supporters of this movement refer to, is Artemisia Gentileschi. Her revolutionary works attract attention and inspire thousands of people. Along with that, Artemisia’s biography serves as an example of the embodiment of the feminine will, resistance and spirit. All these features we can clearly see in her self-portraits, which are widely recognized masterpieces that made an enormous impact on modern culture and encouraged women across the world to defend their innate rights.

In the article “The personal is the political: Artemisia Gentileschi’s revolutionary Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting” Conn (2015) gives the description of several facts from Artemisia’s biography considering the circumstances, in which she created her paintings, and the author highlights certain details, which make her works different from her male contemporaries’ lives at the same time frame. The social situation, which she found herself, dramatically influenced her art. The rape trial widely covered in various publications made Gentileschi famous. Though, she did not become a conformist. Instead of imaging her outer attributes, as others did, Artemisia tried to employ difficult literary devices like “the allegorical idea of personification” (Conn, 2015, p. 24). The unique technique she developed let her operate with real and concise, and misleading elements. Gentileschi was talented and brave enough to express herself creating complicated masterpieces disregarding public opinion.

Also, the author analyzes Artemisia’s work Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting. This painting presents the artist at work. Her attention is totally focused on the scene invisible for observers. Hence, she is not aware of their presence. A number of small, though important, details, which are not seen by a wide audience, demonstrate Gentileschi’s professionalism.

This article reveals discussions among critics and admirers of Artemisia’s paintings as well. While some people doubted her artist’s skills, others perceived her as a genius. However, the author concludes that her revolutionary approaches changed traditional views and inspired followers to develop a new trend in art.

The article “Artemisia Gentileschi, 1593–1653” by Buckley describes the life and works of the famous Italian Baroque artist, Artemisia Gentileschi. Women rarely became professional painters who could make a living from creating pieces of art. However, she obtained great recognition due to her priceless contribution to the world’s art. Artemisia was inspired by Caravaggio’s achievements and her works set the bar much higher. She was subjected to various hideous and painful moments. Though eventually, the artist got the opportunity to focus on the career protected from the horrible past by her husband and the House of Medici.

Artemisia traveled across Italy demonstrating her works, which were greatly appreciated by different members of the high court along with a variety of scientists and writers. She is perceived as a female pioneer who went through a lot of obstacles proving that women deserve to get more value and importance. For sure, the quotes and the piece of art that appeared in the article clearly show the high level of professionalism of Artemisia Gentileschi, the woman who established the growing “feminist movement” (Buckley, 2013, p. 833).

Painting Lucretia: Fear and desire a feminist discourse on representations by Artemisia Gentileschi and Tintoretto” by Endres presents the profound discourse on the “feminist theory” (Enders, 2013, p. 4) and its connection with Artemisia Gentileschi’s art. The discussion focuses on the representation of Lucretia, “the iconic and controversial cultural heroine” (p. 1). Lucretia is a woman whose beauty was highly praised and who committed suicide to save her dignity and punish her offender. The main idea of this myth is the heroism, strength and independence of female nature, which overcome the miserable fate.

Gentileschi’s Lucretia reveals the inner struggling and emotions, which overwhelm the woman after her honor was wounded. Her perception of the myth created a contrast with the visions on that subject, which were popular among other authors back in those days. Gentileschi’s variant is also worth attention because the heroine and the author had a similar experience of sexual violence, and that makes her work more valuable and realistic. Like other Artemisia paintings, this one elicits the notion of the peculiarity of the feminine spirit. The precise look at her art through the “feminist lens” helps to see the basis for the future women’s liberation. There is no question that innovative approaches used by Artemisia encouraged young artists and people who were concerned about gender inequality to start the dialogue identifying the problem, which should have been discussed a long time ago.

In “Proceedings of The National Conference On Undergraduate Research: Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith Reimagined”, Criswell provides a biography and a detailed description of some works of the Italian female artist, Artemisia Gentileschi. At the height of the Baroque era, when men had a monopoly on painting art, Artemisia became a widely recognized painter. The author takes a close look at Gentileschi’s paintings regarding events in her life, which occurred at the time of creating. Distinguishing between men’s and women’s views on the same issues is a crucial point of this study. Judith’s story is an example of a confrontation between strong female and male natures. By the time of working on this painting, Artemisia had gained her confidence as a person and as an artist.

In spite of the fact that Caravaggio’s influence might be seen throughout Gentileschi’s art, she found her unique way. Artemisia’s professionalism is clearly indicated by a lot of little elements in her masterpieces, proving those female artists might be on an equal footing with the greatest examples of traditional male art. While traveling across Europe, she created various significant and compelling pieces of art, in which the connection between social factors and personal feelings appeared in the most incredible forms.

In the article “Proceedings from Young Historians Conference: The Link Between Artemisia Gentileschi’s Biography and Her Artistic Oeuvre”, Komers discusses the reflection of disgraceful events, which took place in early Artemisia’s life, in her canvases. She was a revolutionary who did not accept traditional views on women’s responsibilities. Through her paintings, she expressed the position of a brave and full of dignity woman.

Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome at the end of the sixteenth century. She was a daughter of a mediocre painter who spotted her talent and taught Artemisia. Despite her innate outstanding painter skills, Artemisia’s father insisted on the fact that she had to choose another profession. Though, she continued practicing painting.

Years later, she became “the first woman to paint major historical and religious scenarios” (Komers, 2016, p. 3), and these works were highly appreciated. Expression of her independent nature is manifested in depictions of strong women who acted despite the fear and condemnation. Artemisia highlighted the decisive traits of her heroines, their indomitable spirit.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s contribution to global art is impossible to overemphasize. She presented another view on subjects that were not fully observed. Her vision revealed obscured truths ignored by the majority. Artemisia’s defiant nature provoked doubts about the conviction of submissive and powerless women in Western society.

References

Buckley, P. J. (2013). Artemisia Gentileschi, 1593–1653. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(8), 832-833.

Conn, Virginia L. (2015). The personal is the political: Artemisia Gentileschi’s revolutionary Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting. Kaleidoscope, 8(1), 6.

Criswell, H. (2016). Proceedings of The National Conference On Undergraduate Research: Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith Reimagined. Asheville, NC: University of North Carolina Asheville.

Endres, A. L. (2013). Painting Lucretia: Fear and desire a feminist discourse on representations by Artemisia Gentileschi and Tintoretto (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Komers, E. (2016). Proceedings from Young Historians Conference: The Link Between Artemisia Gentileschi’s Biography and Her Artistic Oeuvre. Portland, OR: Portland State University.

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