Lifestyle & Culture

Celebrating International Women’s Month –  Artemisia Gentileschi, The Unsung Heroine of the Art World

(4 min read) Throughout history, the art world has been dominated by the names of incredible creators but scarcely does a woman’s name glisten on the list of the greats. Women have faced judgment and disapproval for pursuing the arts, which throughout the ages was widely considered a man’s task. Whether in the spotlight or not, women did not falter and fought through trials to contribute to the development of art, offering a valuable insight into the conceptualization of the world through a female’s eyes.

Why does the female dialogue matter so much in art? For centuries women have often been at the visual center of art, being regularly used as muses, objectified, naked and misrepresented, and arguably morphed to the wants of the male gaze. As women have faced oppression, commodification, judgment, and prejudice throughout history, it is ever-more important to allow women to represent women through art, offering a pivotal and acutely relevant narrative, let’s hear it for the ladies!

Of course, it would be preferable that there was no need at all for an article written to commend an artist for their contributions to art with significance placed on their gender, but have them revered as artists alone; regardless of their sex, however, a lot of headway is still to be made with bringing female creative’s into the spotlight and laying the foundations of an equal platform for all artists.

Artemisia Gentileschi

Gentileschi (1593–1654) was privy to the art world from her infancy, as a daughter of a great painter she often mixed paints and dedicated her life to the study of art. Creating large scale biblical paintings, she used her experience as a woman to offer a raw, organic and natural depiction of womanhood. Notice how her female visuals own natural, curved bodies, furrowed brows, and unapologetic expressions, there is no sign of the female stereotype; ‘meek and mild’ in Gentileschi’s masterpieces, and this shocked and unprepared 17th century Italy.

Artemisia Gentileschi beautiful classic artwork depicting womanhood.
Striking light and dark come to play in this thought-provoking, simple visual, a woman leans back in seeming ecstasy as attention is bought to the realistic, unexaggerated femininity of her exposed shoulder that reflects the focal point of light in the image, the face is masked in shadow, a refreshing novelty in its subtlety and personality.

Her widely revered depiction of Judith and Holofernes is considered to depict a narrative of the fury and rage she experienced with her own experience of sexual assault by her art teacher and father’s friend; Agostino Tassi. She faced years of hardship and judgment in the public eye as a result of her attempts to bring him to justice, much like women in the media have faced victim-blaming and stigmatism for coming forward about their assaults.

Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi
Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi.

Judith and Holofernes by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Notice the fiery intent and concentration on the killer’s face, no revulsion or coyness, just pure power. Judith and Holofernes by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

Notice the difference between Gentileschi and Caravaggio’s portrayal of this biblical murder scene, whilst both are technically brilliant, the facial expression of the murderer in the latter is meeker, as though almost repulsed by the task she is actively committing, less violence and rage is visible, compared to the grappling, brutal scene Gentileschi delivers.

Gentileschi has been a pivotal figure in the recent #MeToo movement, by offering her acute depictions of female rage, power and organic, unmuted femininity, her depictions bring home the poignancy of a woman’s perspective in art, and seem to act as an antidote to the unnatural depictions often produced by her male counterparts.

“I fear that before you saw the painting you must have thought me arrogant and presumptuous … You think me pitiful because a woman’s name raises doubts until her work is seen.” —  Gentileschi.

Lucretia by Artemisia Gentileschi
This shocking visual Lucretia (1630) shows a semi-nude woman, hair tousled in a seeming sense of mania. Note the strong clasping hand that envelopes the knife and the rolled-back eyes, there is something divine and disturbing about this piece. Incredible light work bounces off the creases of the shedding robes that highlight an exposed chest. An elegant hybrid of strength and vulnerability.

Mary Magdalene as Melancholy (1625)
Mary Magdalene as Melancholy (1625)

This gorgeous scene is a wonderful essence of Gentileschi’s artistic attitude, notice how Mary Magdalene sits naturally in a melancholy posture, her skin folding realistically around her breast with no element of airbrushing, her dress drapes off the shoulder, an old fashioned symbol for prostitution, however, Gentileschi places a scarf partially covering her skin, so as not to draw the attention of the piece to Mary’s occupation, and more onto her raw emotion.

Susanna and the Elders (1610)

Gentileschi’s unapologetic representation of womanhood was shocking to a 17th-century audience, but now, it gives a clear window into the mind of a forward-thinking and fierce woman fighting with courage in the face of oppression. International Woman’s Day is not just a day to celebrate the achievements and talents of women across the world, but remembering the struggles, discrimination, and abuse of women that continues today, and aiming to achieve equality for men and women worldwide, where everyone has a voice.

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  1. Kate Murray
    March 11, 2020 at 11:55 am

    It’s great to see people around the world celebrating women from a historical perspective!

  2. Jessica Collazo
    March 11, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    Her art was marvellous she was ahead of her time a feminist in all her glory

  3. Cristina Petrini
    March 11, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Art has the power to tell powerful stories that we should treasure.

  4. Krysten Quiles
    March 11, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Oh my goodness I love this so much. Art is so important, especially women in art. Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us!

  5. Stephanie
    March 11, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    I agree, it shouldn’t matter whether the artist is male or female, but the gender difference does usually have to be noted. These paintings are interesting and definitely show real life.

  6. Gi
    March 11, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Well this was quite insightful because I have never known about Artemisia before!

  7. Holly
    March 11, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    She is definitely talented and an exceptional artist. I’m not sure her subject matter is what I would choose to see often.

  8. Tara Pittman
    March 11, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    These pictures have me thinking about how amazing women are. International women month is one that I love learning about

  9. Amber Myers
    March 11, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    These are some fabulous paintings. I hadn’t heard of this artist before. Women rock!

  10. Margaret
    March 11, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    Great article. I’ve never heard of her before, but I can tell that she was quite controversial in her time by the subject matter that she painted. Very cool!

  11. Joline
    March 11, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    She was way ahead of her time that’s for sure. Hope more people become aware of her work!

  12. Marie Phillips
    March 11, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    She was amazing and her art is incredible to this day. What a great tribute to the strength of women!

  13. C
    March 11, 2020 at 9:49 pm

    I absolutely love your discussion about each painting. I used to do it in my college years. It’s all come back to me.

  14. Chelsea Sauve - Wandure
    March 11, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    Now that was a powerful read – as you say, a woman ahead of her time in her depictions of female energy and power. Fabulous read. Thanks for exposing me to such a wonderful female figure!

  15. Holidiaries
    March 11, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    This is an interesting read…to be frank I had never heard of Artemisia before.

  16. Heather
    March 11, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    I haven’t heard of this artist before. Those paintings have so much emotion in them!

  17. Norma
    March 11, 2020 at 11:39 pm

    All the art is very inspirational. You are write it can really tell stories.

  18. Shruti
    March 12, 2020 at 12:02 am

    A picture is worth a thousand words. These paintings are so powerful and say so much about those times

  19. Karen Monica
    March 12, 2020 at 4:16 am

    Honestly I have never heard about Artemisia Gentileschi before. I enjoyed reading this post and knowing more. These paintings tells a lot of story.

  20. Michael
    March 12, 2020 at 5:02 am

    What a unique way to celebrate it. I love how artistic the artworks was done but I am curious with the way it was presented. Kind of violent for me to look at

  21. Kristine Nicole Alessandra
    March 12, 2020 at 6:57 am

    Her emotions are strongly evident in her art pieces. I am sure this came as a shock during that time. She put a voice to women through her art.

  22. Maartje van Sandwijk
    March 12, 2020 at 8:07 am

    These paintings are absolutely amazing!

  23. Pooja Krishna
    March 12, 2020 at 10:11 am

    This is stunning work and a wonderful piece of art history. Will look up more on Gentileschi. Thank you!

  24. Infinity
    March 12, 2020 at 10:12 am

    I had never heard of this painter. She did went through a very tough life but her art is stunning!

  25. Melissa Cushing
    March 12, 2020 at 10:26 am

    Loved this post and the pictures are amazing! I appreciate you sharing this informative read and I had no idea that back in the day being an artist was considered mens work. Very interesting read for sure.

  26. Joanna
    March 12, 2020 at 10:33 am

    I didn’t hear about Artemisia Gentileschi until now but wow, her work is so beautiful! The amount of detail in them and the realism are fantastic!

  27. S
    March 12, 2020 at 11:00 am

    I love the expression behind artistic pieces. You do a great job highlighting women in this post.

  28. Ashley R
    March 12, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    It is so great to celebrate this. Very strong emotions and the paintings are great. So much talent.

  29. aisa
    March 12, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    I have never heard of Gentileschi but judging from the post, she was such an inspiration woman painter and someone who was forward-thinking. Such a wonderful inspiration for women artists!

  30. Tia McKinzie
    March 12, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    these pieces are really good ones! I wish they glorified more of them. they are very detailed and very real.

  31. Kathy
    March 12, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    I have never heard of her so I really love learning more about this woman. She really is an unsung hero.

  32. Olga
    March 12, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    Interesting way to celebrate woman`s day) I love art. These paintings are awesome. Thank you for this post!

  33. LLB
    March 12, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for educating me as I had no idea. Such as interesting read, lovely work.

  34. Natalia
    March 12, 2020 at 5:06 pm

    These paintings look so powerful. I’m not a fan of this kind of art, but it’s great to know some history and artists who created such pieces. 🙂

  35. Bella
    March 12, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    We’ve always been fascinated by the female dialogue in art and you’re right they were objectified. It’s shifted now and I’m hoping to see more female empowerment in art.

  36. Angela Campos
    March 12, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    This article is amazing! These artworks are incredible!

  37. Y.
    March 12, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    What an informative, evocative and inspiring blog post this is showcasing strong woman in the arts!

  38. Fatima Torres
    March 12, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    I didn’t know about Artemisia before, but I’m loving the art. Such great pieces!

  39. Sue-Tanya Mchorgh
    March 12, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    Can I say how much I loveeee art???? These painting are so beautiful. Happy Women’s Month to all the amazing women out there.

  40. Cindy Ingalls
    March 12, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    I have never heard of Artemisia before. Just goes to show feminism has been around a long time!!

  41. Christa
    March 13, 2020 at 12:18 am

    Yes to highlighting amazing women who history has overlooked! What an amazing and talented artiest Artemesia was.

  42. Maysz
    March 13, 2020 at 1:11 am

    Such beautiful art and absolutely stunning great artwork.

  43. David Elliott
    March 13, 2020 at 3:59 am

    Those are some beautiful works of art. I do see what you mean about how the expression changes the mood of the picture.

  44. Bindu Thomas
    March 13, 2020 at 5:46 am

    i was never heard about her before. But i must say i became a fan of her works and visions. That was so great

  45. melissa major
    March 13, 2020 at 7:08 am

    These are some very interesting paintings with a lot of depth! Its great celebrating art

  46. Nicole San Miguel
    March 13, 2020 at 7:26 am

    Those artworks are amazing! Happy International Women’s Month 🙂

  47. Rochelle
    March 13, 2020 at 9:16 am

    This is a great display of celebrating women’s art. Thanks for sharing!

  48. Janicke Kittilsen
    March 13, 2020 at 9:59 am

    I have never heard about Artemisia Gentileschi before. Thanks for sharing. Her painting is special and amazing.

  49. Renata Feyen
    March 13, 2020 at 11:14 am

    You actually don’t realize this until you read it that indeed all the historic painters are men 🙂

  50. Neely
    March 13, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    I love this! So great to see how women can be celebrate in so many ways!

  51. Dan "Jay" Reyes
    March 13, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    This is the first time I heard of this woman artist and I find her paintings quite intriguing.

  52. Jon Maldia
    March 13, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    This is quite interesting. I’ve never heard of Artemia. Thanks for your post.

  53. Elizabeth Grider
    March 13, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    I wasn’t familiar with this artist. It’s interesting to see the comparisons of various art work and to focus on a female artist.

  54. Prakhar Kasera
    March 13, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    That’s a nice piece of history, frankly I didn’t knew a bit about Artemisia but now I do. Great post!

  55. Marjie Mare
    March 13, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    I love everything related to art and these paintings are absolutely great and definitely show real life.

  56. Kelsey
    March 13, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    This is really interesting ! Good displays of art!

  57. Joyce
    March 13, 2020 at 9:23 pm

    such wonderful art. I never heard of this artist before.

  58. Ash Seymour
    March 13, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    I’d never seen the works of Artemisia Gentileschi before. She was extremely talented! Her work is beautiful and thought-provoking.

  59. Sol Razo
    March 13, 2020 at 9:58 pm

    This is the first time I learned about her, such an interesting story of another great woman in this field.

  60. Crystal Candy
    March 14, 2020 at 12:40 am

    Wow these paintings are powerful, I’ve never heard of her before so I’m glad you shared these paintings with us.

  61. Kondwani Musonda
    March 14, 2020 at 3:42 am

    wow this was an interesting read, women have been dominating and will still dominate for centuries to come.

  62. TW
    March 14, 2020 at 8:43 am

    These are powerful images, and I am kind of being hypnotized as I look at them. Thanks for sharing these, I’m proud of the talent behind these arts.

  63. W
    March 14, 2020 at 11:15 am

    Such a cool artist, the paintings are so amazing! I wasn’t aware of her before reading this post, thanks for sharing.

  64. Lyosha
    March 14, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Beautiful art and yes I am all into celebrating and embracing female power!

  65. Nayna
    March 14, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    What a fantastic set of paintings, they have so much detail. The artist is very talented indeed.

  66. Jen Walker
    March 14, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    What an incredible artist! I never really thought about my limited art knowledge, but you are right, just about all the artists I could name are men. Artemisia was clearly a powerful woman and I need to learn even more about her!

  67. MO
    March 16, 2020 at 2:46 am

    The paintings are quite shocking but it is nice to see and learned about its history.

  68. P.E.
    March 17, 2020 at 9:47 am

    ooh i love this post! art is so fascinating and the women in it! the women in history are so badass and become such great role models!

  69. TC
    March 18, 2020 at 12:29 am

    I live in a house with 3 women and I think women deserve more than a day to celebrate them1 It should be a whole week!

  70. Angela
    March 18, 2020 at 6:16 am

    Such amazing talent and far ahead of her time, thank you so much for introducing me to the works of Artemisia!

  71. Marysa
    March 19, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    I don’t think I have seen any of these pieces before. They are all quite powerful. The subject matter is quite intense and the images are as well.

  72. EY
    May 15, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Great! the Artemisia Lomi or Artemisia Gentileschi was a great painter and artist. Her talent was amazing, the paintings are really wonderful.