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The Artemisia Files: Artemisia Gentileschi for Feminists and Other Thinking People

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One of the first female artists to achieve recognition in her own time, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) became instantly popular in the 1970s when feminist art historians "discovered" her and argued vehemently for a place for her in the canon of Italian baroque painters. Featured alongside her father, Orazio Gentileschi, in a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum One of the first female artists to achieve recognition in her own time, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) became instantly popular in the 1970s when feminist art historians "discovered" her and argued vehemently for a place for her in the canon of Italian baroque painters. Featured alongside her father, Orazio Gentileschi, in a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Artemisia has continued to stir interest though her position in the canon remains precarious, in part because her sensationalized life history has overshadowed her art. In The Artemisia Files, Mieke Bal and her coauthors look squarely at this early icon of feminist art history and the question of her status as an artist. Considering the events that shaped her life and reputation—her relationship to her father and her role as the victim in a highly publicized rape case during which she was tortured into giving evidence—the authors make the case that Artemisia's importance is due to more than her role as a poster child in the feminist attack on traditional art history; here, Artemisia emerges more fully as a highly original artist whose work is greater than the sum of the events that have traditionally defined her. The fresh, engaging discourse in The Artemisia Files will help to both renew the reputation of this artist on the merit of her work and establish her rightful place in the history of art. “Over the last generation Artemisia has been transformed from a talented curiosity . . . into a standard bearer of early feminist consciousness. This book offers a fascinating glimpse into the critical frame of mind underlying this transformation.”—Keith Christiansen, Jayne Wrightsman Curator of Italian Painting, The MetropolitanMuseum of Art


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One of the first female artists to achieve recognition in her own time, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) became instantly popular in the 1970s when feminist art historians "discovered" her and argued vehemently for a place for her in the canon of Italian baroque painters. Featured alongside her father, Orazio Gentileschi, in a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum One of the first female artists to achieve recognition in her own time, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) became instantly popular in the 1970s when feminist art historians "discovered" her and argued vehemently for a place for her in the canon of Italian baroque painters. Featured alongside her father, Orazio Gentileschi, in a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Artemisia has continued to stir interest though her position in the canon remains precarious, in part because her sensationalized life history has overshadowed her art. In The Artemisia Files, Mieke Bal and her coauthors look squarely at this early icon of feminist art history and the question of her status as an artist. Considering the events that shaped her life and reputation—her relationship to her father and her role as the victim in a highly publicized rape case during which she was tortured into giving evidence—the authors make the case that Artemisia's importance is due to more than her role as a poster child in the feminist attack on traditional art history; here, Artemisia emerges more fully as a highly original artist whose work is greater than the sum of the events that have traditionally defined her. The fresh, engaging discourse in The Artemisia Files will help to both renew the reputation of this artist on the merit of her work and establish her rightful place in the history of art. “Over the last generation Artemisia has been transformed from a talented curiosity . . . into a standard bearer of early feminist consciousness. This book offers a fascinating glimpse into the critical frame of mind underlying this transformation.”—Keith Christiansen, Jayne Wrightsman Curator of Italian Painting, The MetropolitanMuseum of Art

30 review for The Artemisia Files: Artemisia Gentileschi for Feminists and Other Thinking People

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Kammerdiener

    "Artemisia's intervention sparked an intense critical debate that has not ceased, and we owe it to her to keep this debate on track." I received this book from a friend who went to a showing of the exhibition these essays center around in her hometown, which was such a sweet gift, as she knows Artemisia's work is some of my favorite. It's been a couple of months since I've done any academic art historical reading for my degree, so this was a great time to pick this up, as I'm just reaching th "Artemisia's intervention sparked an intense critical debate that has not ceased, and we owe it to her to keep this debate on track." I received this book from a friend who went to a showing of the exhibition these essays center around in her hometown, which was such a sweet gift, as she knows Artemisia's work is some of my favorite. It's been a couple of months since I've done any academic art historical reading for my degree, so this was a great time to pick this up, as I'm just reaching the point where I'm really starting to crave it again. I wouldn't say this ought to be an art history novice's introduction to Artemisia, as, though I found it rather readable compared to a lot of other academic texts I've come across, it's still pretty dense and does contain a lot of art historical references, especially to the Baroque period, that may go over some readers' heads. But honestly, even a perusal through Artemisia's Wikipedia page would probably give you enough background to get a true appreciation of her from this book. I really appreciated that all the commentators here were women, and I especially respected Bal's efforts as editor in coordinating these essays. They all tackle really specific and yet also very nuanced issues, each distinct but still with an appropriate amount of overlap. I loved that they referenced and acknowledged each other, which doesn't always happen in a fragmentary essay collection like this; it really gave this book a solid line of following throughout that truly helped to create a fuller portrait that delves beyond popular myths surrounding Artemisia's life and work. I never would have even found this book had it not been gifted to me, so I definitely want to recommend it here to anyone who has an interest in Artemesia. And for those who don't, I would highly recommend you give her a Google and then return here, as there truly is a reason she's captured the modern fascination after spending so many unfortunate centuries in obscurity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aria Ligi

    This is an interesting book, but if you want a biography of Gentileschi, this is not that. Instead, it is a series of six essays on her art, the meaning behind her work, and lastly her life. Though it does have some commentary on her as an individual it is more in the guise of who she was in terms of the feminist movement, and how that relates to her art, and less about who Artemisia was a person. The first essay Artemisia's Hand, by Mary D. Garrard, is by far the most captivating, as she delves This is an interesting book, but if you want a biography of Gentileschi, this is not that. Instead, it is a series of six essays on her art, the meaning behind her work, and lastly her life. Though it does have some commentary on her as an individual it is more in the guise of who she was in terms of the feminist movement, and how that relates to her art, and less about who Artemisia was a person. The first essay Artemisia's Hand, by Mary D. Garrard, is by far the most captivating, as she delves into the use of hands by the artist, and in particular how she was able to discern through them, if a piece was in fact done by the artist or her father, Orazio, who in his own right was a prominent painter, but who in time was lesser known than his daughter. The last article, Feminist Dilemmas with the Art/Life Problem by Griselda Pollock discusses the various pieces of historical fiction from novels to film. Pollock makes the point that most of these have centered their work on the rape of Artemisia and the trial rather than who she became after that, and her life as a day to day female artist within the seventeenth century. However, while she does have a point that to do so is phallicentric, it is equally imperative to acknowledge the rape, (as the film Artemisia, by Merlet, does not, for it turns the rape into a love story completely discounting the artist's experience) and the subsequent trial in which she was not only tortured under the Sibille but had to undergo a gynecological exam in open court. (though behind a screen). To sidestep this is to discount what was probably the most traumatizing experience of her life. Furthermore, it is to invalidate and thus deny her, her pain. Whether someone is raped in the seventeenth century or the twenty-first, and whether society views it as such or not, the graphic description in the trial transcript in which she describes throwing a dagger at Tassi and tearing off a bit of skin on his penis, does not connote in anyway consent or love. Therefore, Pollock, by possibly wanting to appear avant-garde comes across as one who is willing to on the one hand acknowledge what happened, and on the other to dismiss it as less important than it was. This is salient when you look at Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes because while the biblical story was a popular theme in the seventeenth century, it is nowhere more viscerally depicted than by her. Artemisia created a panoply of works that seem to scream at the viewer in terms that were a rallying cry for women everywhere. This had to come from somewhere and to discount that seems ludicrous at best. If this is Pollock's mind part an effort to seem like a maverick going against the grain, it will fail, because the work speaks for itself. One needs only to look at not only the Judith's but her other words such as Lucretia, Susanna's, Cleopatra's etc. to understand that the need to provide examples of women who through adversity persevered, to see that this is true. Instead of trying to appear daring, it would be better to honor her for what and who she was and thus acknowledge her courage.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Moya Smith

    First rate especially the essay by Griselda Pollock, one of my favourite art history writers - taking apart the multitude of texts around Artemisia Gentileschi in a most intelligent way.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cara (Wilde Book Garden)

    4.5 stars RTC! CW: Rape, misogyny, references to: incest, pedophilia

  5. 5 out of 5

    Roisin

    This book is a collection of essays about the life and work of Artemisia Gentileschi who was a painter in the 1600s. If you are interested in feminist perspectives and how a female artist's work can be judged, (especially one who has been compared regularly to the work of her father, Orazio), then this book is for you. Many of the essays focus on particular works by her and how she as an artist has been represented in exhibitions. Gentileschi has become a beacon for feminist ideology which in a w This book is a collection of essays about the life and work of Artemisia Gentileschi who was a painter in the 1600s. If you are interested in feminist perspectives and how a female artist's work can be judged, (especially one who has been compared regularly to the work of her father, Orazio), then this book is for you. Many of the essays focus on particular works by her and how she as an artist has been represented in exhibitions. Gentileschi has become a beacon for feminist ideology which in a way has ignored her value as an artist in her own right. The essays are interesting and make some strong points, however there seems to be an obsession with an event that took place in her life, which has coloured the responses to her work. Sad...I wanted to know more about her in relation to the work that she made, despite what terrible events took place in her life. She was able to work within a male domain and succeed. If you want to know more about her, I would look elsewhere. However, if looking at feminism, art by women and how they are shown within the art realm, I would add this to one's reading list.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    In a word, thought-provoking. I really enjoyed the essay on how Artemisia painted hands; out of all of them, that really opened a new world/new way of looking at her paintings for me. This was the first book I've finished after the end of my semester and it's been such a lovely reminder of how much I enjoy art history and art criticism. In a word, thought-provoking. I really enjoyed the essay on how Artemisia painted hands; out of all of them, that really opened a new world/new way of looking at her paintings for me. This was the first book I've finished after the end of my semester and it's been such a lovely reminder of how much I enjoy art history and art criticism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bibice

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Becker

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tina

  13. 5 out of 5

    Molly

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Kuczek

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erica Wofford

  16. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kahla

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cricket

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline DeSantis

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura Maisey

  23. 5 out of 5

    Antje

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bwickre

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ali

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Afri

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    759.5 A7867 2005

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katie Favale

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