Fierce, beautiful, unrelenting, unsettling.
Those words can be used to describe both Artemisia and her art. And indeed, it seems impossible to separate the two.
Artemisia Gentileschi was a focused and passionate artist who was trained and encouraged by her artist father (one of few ways a women could receive professional training at the time) and as a teenager was known to spend most of her time devoted to painting. While her father’s support enabled her artistic education, it was her own passion and drive that lead to several unbelievable masterpieces before she even turned twenty.
Artemisia brought strength, boldness, and realism to the women in her paintings-while also bringing to light the darker realities that male artists often ignored.
One of her first well-known pieces shows “Susanna and the Elders”. Other artists portrayed the Elders as far-off and subtle peeping-toms and Susanna as an unaware beauty that they, and the artist/audience, could gaze at without consequences. Artemisia on the other hand portrayed the men shamelessly ogling Susanna, with Susanna aware, uncomfortable, and afraid. Artemisia likely drew upon her own experiences at the time of the unwanted advances and leering gazes of her painting tutor Tassi and his friend to reveal how disgusting the story, and intrusion of privacy, really was.
That unwanted attention from her painting tutor sadly didn’t stop. Tassi eventually raped Artemisia and was sued by her father. The 7-month long public court case resulted in Artemisia being literally tortured to see if her testimony was true (Tassi was unharmed),