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I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi

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In 17th century Rome, where women are expected to be chaste and yet are viewed as prey by powerful men, the extraordinary painter Artemisia Gentileschi fends off constant sexual advances as she works to become one of the greatest painters of her generation. Frustrated by the hypocritical social mores of her day, Gentileschi releases her anguish through her paintings and, a In 17th century Rome, where women are expected to be chaste and yet are viewed as prey by powerful men, the extraordinary painter Artemisia Gentileschi fends off constant sexual advances as she works to become one of the greatest painters of her generation. Frustrated by the hypocritical social mores of her day, Gentileschi releases her anguish through her paintings and, against all odds, becomes a groundbreaking artist. Meticulously rendered in ballpoint pen, this gripping graphic biography serves as an art history lesson and a coming-of-age story. Resonant in the #MeToo era, I Know What I Am highlights a fierce artist who stood up to a shameful social status quo.


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In 17th century Rome, where women are expected to be chaste and yet are viewed as prey by powerful men, the extraordinary painter Artemisia Gentileschi fends off constant sexual advances as she works to become one of the greatest painters of her generation. Frustrated by the hypocritical social mores of her day, Gentileschi releases her anguish through her paintings and, a In 17th century Rome, where women are expected to be chaste and yet are viewed as prey by powerful men, the extraordinary painter Artemisia Gentileschi fends off constant sexual advances as she works to become one of the greatest painters of her generation. Frustrated by the hypocritical social mores of her day, Gentileschi releases her anguish through her paintings and, against all odds, becomes a groundbreaking artist. Meticulously rendered in ballpoint pen, this gripping graphic biography serves as an art history lesson and a coming-of-age story. Resonant in the #MeToo era, I Know What I Am highlights a fierce artist who stood up to a shameful social status quo.

30 review for I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest One of the first adult works of historical fiction that I ever read was Susan Vreeland's THE PASSION OF ARTEMISIA. So, naturally, when I saw that a graphic novel biography of Artemisia Gentileschi was coming out, I had to have it. I mean, really. I was looking at some of the reviews and saw some people taking issue with the art style and the content. First, the art style is somewhat simplistic. It is done with line drawing, as you would w Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest One of the first adult works of historical fiction that I ever read was Susan Vreeland's THE PASSION OF ARTEMISIA. So, naturally, when I saw that a graphic novel biography of Artemisia Gentileschi was coming out, I had to have it. I mean, really. I was looking at some of the reviews and saw some people taking issue with the art style and the content. First, the art style is somewhat simplistic. It is done with line drawing, as you would with a ball point pen. I really enjoyed this, personally, although I will say that this book is very text-heavy. In fact, it is basically an illustrated textbook, and dense with information. Sometimes this can be difficult to consume since the line shading does make the pages "busy," and it can be hard to focus on any particular thing since so much is going on. I personally liked the art style a lot, but your mileage may vary. Regarding the dark content, well. That's true. This book is set during the Italian Renaissance, when Italy was comprised of many city-states, some of which were ruled over by corrupt and brutal families who would stoop to violence in order to assure that they maintained their foothold in power. It's definitely not for those faint of heart. In fact, some of the horrific scenes from Game of Thrones borrow heavily from actual historical events from Renaissance Italy, so you can only imagine, I'm sure, the horrors in this book. Women were not respected at all during this time, and many people saw Artemisia as vulnerable and fair game. Her rape and the subsequent trial were awful, and the artist did a good job depicting how upsetting this was (it almost certainly inspired her painting, Judith Slaying Holofernes). Despite that, she fared better than most, despite being tortured under interrogation, and the fact that she was able to accomplish so much and become so famous in a time when women were still mostly regarded as chattel is only testament to her influence and her brilliance, especially in a period of such adversity. I liked how this wasn't just a biography, but also an exploration of the changes occurring (quite rapidly) in Renaissance Italy, a taste of the art scene and some of the key players, as well as a bit of a background on the wars between the protestants and the Catholics, and the in-house fighting among the various city-states of Italy before they were united. You really get a solid feel for the zeitgeist of Renaissance Italy and how all of those factors influenced Artemisia's style and life. That's way cool. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 3.5 to 4 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    juicy brained intellectual

    great book to read if you want to go back in time and kill every man

  3. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    This book shows how far the graphic format has progressed. It first grew from entertainment to Cliff Notes style treatment of its subjects. The next evolution was nuance and depth. Gina Siciliano has taken this genre to a new height: This is a work of research. This telling of Artemsia Gentileschi’s life shows the Italian peninsula as violent, competitive and corrupt. You see a fundamentally misogynist culture. Siciliano shows how Gentileschi, who learned painting from her less talented father, This book shows how far the graphic format has progressed. It first grew from entertainment to Cliff Notes style treatment of its subjects. The next evolution was nuance and depth. Gina Siciliano has taken this genre to a new height: This is a work of research. This telling of Artemsia Gentileschi’s life shows the Italian peninsula as violent, competitive and corrupt. You see a fundamentally misogynist culture. Siciliano shows how Gentileschi, who learned painting from her less talented father, interpreted the female experience. She used the biblical and mythological conventions of the time and expanded on the content and artistic style of Caravaggio. Augustino Tassi, who worked on a joint commission with Artemisia’s father, raped her when she was 18 years old. The best route (in Rome in the early 1600’s) to maintaining her reputation and that of the family was to marry him. By maintaining a sexual relationship she was able to get a proposal from him. When Tassi reneged, her father sued him for rape. In the course of a 7 month trial that found him guilty (his light sentence was never carried out), Artemisia was tortured and lost her reputation and with it the hope of a good marriage. Her father’s solution was a quickly arranged a marriage with the (out of town) artist Perantonio Stiattesi. She moved to Florence to be with him. Siciliano shows Gentileschi’s rape as pivotal in her artistic development. During the trial she painted her interpretation of Caraveggio’s “Judith saying Holofernes” depicting female strength and anger. Later works of Bathsheba, Mary Magdalene, St. Catherine, Esther, Cleopatra and her self-portraiture show not passive beauty, as popular in the time, but female emotion, sensuality and strength. As she matures, and survives more of ill treatment by men, these images become stronger. She recreates “Judith and Holofernes” showing more anger and revenge. Siciliano also shows how Gentileschi had to tone down her content to keep and attract patrons. The book covers her relationships with patrons, Galileo, other women in the arts and a re-connection with her father and brothers in England. Her rapist was a cad beyond the rape: he attempted to kill his ex-wife and ran off with her sister. Her husband gambled and used the money from her commissions at brothels. She had 5 children with two surviving to adult hood. She lived and worked in Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples (survived Vesuvius eruption) and England. It is quite a life. The Notes are page by page annotations that document the text and give further observations on Gentileschi’s work, tell what was created, fill in missing links and give full citations from original works by writers cited in the text. An example of the detail in these notes is the p. 192 entry: “X-radiography reveals that Artemisia repainted Esther before Ahasuerus numerous times. It was initially a busier multi-figure composition with an African servant or page (see notes p. 217)…. I invented Artemisia’s interaction with Giovanna Garzoni, both women were in Venice at the same time…” followed by primary sources that point to a relationship. A lot of work and thought went into the graphics. There are typically 9 panels per page with chapters introduced by full page portraits. The format fits the content best when it shows Gentileschi’s work. The page by page Notes have observations on the detail on the content and context in which the paintings were created. I often had to distinguish the people from their role since their portraits are all so similar. I liked the author’s self-portrait on the end book. This book shows the progress of the graphic media. I don’t know of any work like this. While I don’t know much about this genre, I highly recommend these titles for showing its reach: The Gauguin Atlas– uses maps, post cards, drawings of the time to illustrate not just the biography, but visual life experienced by Paul Gauguin. Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home the author uses pieces of the family scrapbook to illustrate her search for her family’s past. Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout – a 2011 National Book Award finalist where the author created all aspects including paper created with light sensitive materials which were critical to the discovery.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    Book blurb:In 17th century Rome, where women are expected to be chaste and yet are viewed as prey by powerful men, the extraordinary painter Artemisia Gentileschi fends off constant sexual advances as she works to become one of the greatest painters of her generation. Have you heard of Artemisia Gentileschi? I had not. Not even a whiff, and it's a shame, as she was a rather remarkable woman. She was a famous artist in her times, and the first woman painter allowed into art guilds. I should have Book blurb:In 17th century Rome, where women are expected to be chaste and yet are viewed as prey by powerful men, the extraordinary painter Artemisia Gentileschi fends off constant sexual advances as she works to become one of the greatest painters of her generation. Have you heard of Artemisia Gentileschi? I had not. Not even a whiff, and it's a shame, as she was a rather remarkable woman. She was a famous artist in her times, and the first woman painter allowed into art guilds. I should have loved this graphic biography, but it read more like an illustrated masters thesis than a book for public consumption. The black and white ballpoint art is good, and I really appreciated that the author places Artemisia in historical context - the politics and art trends of her day - but this was too text heavy. Lots of name dropping - many I hadn't heard of before - which made my gaps in art and Italian history rather glaring. I was both delighted and angry as I learned about Artemisia. Some men really suck. She actually took the man who raped her to court. In the 17th century! Her art was groundbreaking, and I plan to read more about the artist. This book will probably work better for folks better versed in art/Italian history, but I was delighted to be introduced to this extraordinary artist and her works.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    I frequently whine that graphic novel biographies are too brief and don't provide enough context for the subject's life, but man does this one go overboard in the other direction. Giant blocks of text nearly squeeze the art out of the panels as we are introduced to every person who touched the life of Artemisia Gentileschi and all the political movements that were going on in the places where she lived. The first half of the book is fairly interesting as the focus on the Italian painter's persona I frequently whine that graphic novel biographies are too brief and don't provide enough context for the subject's life, but man does this one go overboard in the other direction. Giant blocks of text nearly squeeze the art out of the panels as we are introduced to every person who touched the life of Artemisia Gentileschi and all the political movements that were going on in the places where she lived. The first half of the book is fairly interesting as the focus on the Italian painter's personal life is stronger, detailing her rape by one of her father's painting peers and the extended trial that followed. Much of the original testimony was preserved in transcript form and is utilized here. Having used up the most compelling original source material, the second half devolves into a recitation of facts, names, and places as the captions truly get out of control. And there are 40 dreary pages of endnotes awaiting obsessive book completists like me. The art is fine, but Siciliano tends to have her characters staring face forward out of the panel at the reader way too often.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bob H

    This is a moving, even inspirational look at the life, cultural context, and social times of Artemisia Gentileschi, an important figure in 17th Century Baroque painting, a painter of the Caravaggio/chiaroscuro school -- and one of the most daring women in history. The book is a graphic novel, black-and-white. It spares little of the cruelty, sexism, superstition and danger of Italy at the time, and shows just how much she had to overcome, as a woman, to take a leading role in the art world, even This is a moving, even inspirational look at the life, cultural context, and social times of Artemisia Gentileschi, an important figure in 17th Century Baroque painting, a painter of the Caravaggio/chiaroscuro school -- and one of the most daring women in history. The book is a graphic novel, black-and-white. It spares little of the cruelty, sexism, superstition and danger of Italy at the time, and shows just how much she had to overcome, as a woman, to take a leading role in the art world, even given that her father Orazio Gentileschi had been a major painter as well. It's a thinly-fictional story of a real-life figure; the author has, with words, dialogue and pictures, filled in much of her personal life and some of the details otherwise lost to history. Artemisia Gentileschi is a newly-appreciated figure in art history and in feminist culture, and this book is one way of visualizing her importance and courage. It can serve as inspiration to new generations, and the graphic format (in all senses) may appeal to young-adult readers as well as anyone interested in the history of art, and of social progress. Highly recommend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This is one of the most in-depth historical graphic novel's I've ever read. Made me realise how little I knew of Italian history from this period. These courtly artists travelled widely from patron to patron. Artemisia even spent time in the English court, meeting her father there and working on a church fresco. She's now considered one of the most accomplished seventeenth-century artists working in the dramatic style of Caravaggio and Artemisia was the first woman to become a member of the Acca This is one of the most in-depth historical graphic novel's I've ever read. Made me realise how little I knew of Italian history from this period. These courtly artists travelled widely from patron to patron. Artemisia even spent time in the English court, meeting her father there and working on a church fresco. She's now considered one of the most accomplished seventeenth-century artists working in the dramatic style of Caravaggio and Artemisia was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. Her participation in the trial of her rapist long overshadowed her achievements as an artist and I think this graphic novel puts that trial into a proper perspective in the way she lived her life and her life's achievements. A fascinating person, really glad I had the library purchase this one. There is an abundance of notes in the back of the book, which I didn't quite get through, but returned it to the library because others now have it on reserve. I'll be borrowing it again sometime.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    I FINALLY FINISHED THIS BOOK! And I feel like a champion. “I Know What I Am” is a biographical graphic novel detailing the life of Artemisia Gentileschi - one of the few women in history to be celebrated as a famous artist. Gentileschi is an inherently feminist figure, as she was sexually assaulted by a fellow artist, but continued to paint strong, rebellious female subjects. And she gained notoriety and esteem in doing so. The author, Siciliano, describes her own struggles as a survivor of sexual I FINALLY FINISHED THIS BOOK! And I feel like a champion. “I Know What I Am” is a biographical graphic novel detailing the life of Artemisia Gentileschi - one of the few women in history to be celebrated as a famous artist. Gentileschi is an inherently feminist figure, as she was sexually assaulted by a fellow artist, but continued to paint strong, rebellious female subjects. And she gained notoriety and esteem in doing so. The author, Siciliano, describes her own struggles as a survivor of sexual assault, and how this book and the research surrounding it made it a cathartic project in her introduction. I admire the amount of work she put into this book. It is clearly a subject she is passionate about. The art is stunning. Siciliano put and incredible amount of detail into drawing her historic characters as individuals, even if she didn’t always have a frame of reference. She detailed ball-point miniatures of examples of classic art throughout, and I find them amazing. The written content of the book is a mixed bag for me. Siciliano included a lot of text surrounding her illustrations. A lot. Sometimes this made the format overwhelming. In addition, Siciliano included vast amounts of contextual information to world-build Gentileschi’s surroundings. This included many briefly mentioned historical figures, social commentary, etc. At times I found this detracting from the biographical story, and also difficult to follow, not knowing much about the Baroque period to begin with. She also included modernized speech in some of her panels, which I found to be a strange choice. Siciliano’s dedication to her research is undeniable. She included pages of detailed notes providing historical context/ rationale for her artistic decisions. Everything is fastidiously cited. I don’t entirely understand some of her decisions to fabricate so many panels - I know she wanted to flesh-out Gentileschi’s life, but at times I found it unnecessary. All-in-all a worthwhile read for the art historian feminist.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I was looking forward to this book since the author/illustrator went to my college, just before I did. I checked this out from the library and then kept putting it off until now. This graphic biography is unfortunately bogged down by text-heavy pages and way too much information - about the religion and politics of the time, other artists, and especially all the men surrounding Artemisia. I understand that there is likely more documentation about these things and the men in her life than there i I was looking forward to this book since the author/illustrator went to my college, just before I did. I checked this out from the library and then kept putting it off until now. This graphic biography is unfortunately bogged down by text-heavy pages and way too much information - about the religion and politics of the time, other artists, and especially all the men surrounding Artemisia. I understand that there is likely more documentation about these things and the men in her life than there is about her, but in this book it detracts from her (fascinating) story, just like the over-abundant text draws attention away from the (beautiful) drawings. The book starts by introducing several male figures, before introducing Artemisia on page 18, and the focus doesn’t truly shift to her life until page 34, so the book didn’t have a strong start to pull you in. It’s also apparent that the author did very extensive research, but I wish she had let it inform the drawing panels more, rather than trying to cram as much of it as possible into the text panels. That said, Artemisia’s life is intrinsically tied to the politics and religion of the time, and her treatment by the men around her. But I don’t think the right balance for telling a good story was found.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shomeret

    When I noticed that The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont had selected January 1st as Artemisia Gentileschi's feast day, I decided to make this book my first read of 2020. I started reading it on January 1st. This was an immensely detailed graphic novel about the Italian Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi who has been one of my favorite historical personages even though I knew only a small fraction of her life and works before reading this book. Artemisia Gentileschi was far more When I noticed that The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont had selected January 1st as Artemisia Gentileschi's feast day, I decided to make this book my first read of 2020. I started reading it on January 1st. This was an immensely detailed graphic novel about the Italian Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi who has been one of my favorite historical personages even though I knew only a small fraction of her life and works before reading this book. Artemisia Gentileschi was far more than a rape survivor who confronted her rapist in court. That in itself was remarkable in 17th century Italy. Yet I had no idea of the extent of her work, or that she was also a single mother. Siciliano also places Artemisia in the context of her period. There is a great deal of period background that I found very illuminating. I also appreciated the notes that informed me of what was fictional and what was historical, and the extensive bibliography. This the most scholarly graphic novel that I've ever seen.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    I Know What I Am reads more like an illustrated senior thesis than an actual work of graphic non-fiction. Gina Siciliano's art is largely amateurish, though it does improve over the course of the book. Her penchant for text is overwhelming - most pages are 50% text or more, really stretching the boundaries of graphic non-fiction. Some of the text is interesting, at least, particularly Siciliano's efforts to frame the early 16th century world of Artemisia Gentileschi. I can safely say that I came I Know What I Am reads more like an illustrated senior thesis than an actual work of graphic non-fiction. Gina Siciliano's art is largely amateurish, though it does improve over the course of the book. Her penchant for text is overwhelming - most pages are 50% text or more, really stretching the boundaries of graphic non-fiction. Some of the text is interesting, at least, particularly Siciliano's efforts to frame the early 16th century world of Artemisia Gentileschi. I can safely say that I came away from I Know What I Am with a stronger understanding of art, culture, and politics in medieval Italy, though that isn't exactly what I picked up the book for. Gentileschi's biography sometimes gets second billing. The book's second part is the roughest portion: the trial in which Gentileschi accuses Agostino of raping her. "Men are trash" is definitely a theme of the book, but Siciliano's portrayal of the trial using the exact language from the trial certainly does not make me sympathize with Gentileschi. It makes me skip ahead to part three.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aida

    This is a phenomenal piece of work. Siciliano has clearly put an abundance of care, effort, and detail into fashioning a dedicated retelling of Artemisia's story and I'm so grateful. I had never heard of Artemisia, and now I feel like I've been given a window into another world and another time. TW; this book deals with sexual violence, and is a graphic novel, though all sexually explicit scenes are done with care, not exploitation. You can see the dedication Siciliano has to portraying the stori This is a phenomenal piece of work. Siciliano has clearly put an abundance of care, effort, and detail into fashioning a dedicated retelling of Artemisia's story and I'm so grateful. I had never heard of Artemisia, and now I feel like I've been given a window into another world and another time. TW; this book deals with sexual violence, and is a graphic novel, though all sexually explicit scenes are done with care, not exploitation. You can see the dedication Siciliano has to portraying the stories of survivors of sexual assault and their journeys with understanding and empathy. However, if you want to learn about a badass woman artist from the 17th century, while seeing some excellent drawings of her work and those of other artists, this book is for you.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Naviya Singla

    - i love artemisia's work! i first saw it on a tumblr post when i was in HS and tbh have loved it since then bc it's so?? violent and the lighting and just there's so much to unpack - it carries so much pain and anger - if u dont know who she is, just look at Judith Slaying Holofernes by her bc it is just So Much - i thoroughly enjoy renaissance and baroque art bc of the catholic vibes but was never able to get beyond a superficial understanding of the lore and the moral lesson behind it; but this - i love artemisia's work! i first saw it on a tumblr post when i was in HS and tbh have loved it since then bc it's so?? violent and the lighting and just there's so much to unpack - it carries so much pain and anger - if u dont know who she is, just look at Judith Slaying Holofernes by her bc it is just So Much - i thoroughly enjoy renaissance and baroque art bc of the catholic vibes but was never able to get beyond a superficial understanding of the lore and the moral lesson behind it; but this book layers that with political, social and economic context of it's creation and commission - it is "comic scholarship" and i think thats true bc the book does such an incredible job of providing you with the context necessary to understand artemisia and her work // the author is an artist and historian and writer and i think thats just,,,, so,,,,neat - the emotionality, the art and the personal connection - you feel it all in the way the comics and art and the care with which the research notes talk about it - it is so thoroughly impressive - she draws parallels between different sources and explains why she chose a certain one over the other - can u imagine if art history and art were taught this way? it's so accessible and so heartful - i also came across Arcangela Tarabotti who I hadn't heard of but apparently wrote some early feminist texts which are Wild - i love the detail to name artemisia's second daughter as elena cassandra after arcangela - the content was very hard to read bc it is graphic so beware for tw // sexual assault, rape, violence, nudity

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    This enormous tome is a history lesson, a biography, and a passionate tale of resilience and survival. Recommended for anyone interested in pioneering women in the arts, Italian history, biographies, or well told stories.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    3.5 - interesting biographical graphic nonfiction work on Italy’s greatest female painter. The context on her life and the times gave a lot to her story, but unfortunately it also bogged down the book a bit with a lot of text that overshadowed the art.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Gray

    This was a fascinating look at the artist, Artemisia Gentileschi. I just wish the illustrations of her paintings had been in color so I could fully appreciate them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    Very impressive!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Nunez

    Biographies presented in the graphic novel format are fascinating and I found this one to be highly engaging. The book itself is beautiful and the artwork throughout is impressive and evokes an era about which I knew very little. I give this book 3 stars because Siciliano’s book tells a unique and important story and because of the beauty of the book itself and the artistic accomplishment it represents. This graphic biography represents an excellent introduction to Gentileschi's life and times. Biographies presented in the graphic novel format are fascinating and I found this one to be highly engaging. The book itself is beautiful and the artwork throughout is impressive and evokes an era about which I knew very little. I give this book 3 stars because Siciliano’s book tells a unique and important story and because of the beauty of the book itself and the artistic accomplishment it represents. This graphic biography represents an excellent introduction to Gentileschi's life and times. She was an artist who lived in 17th century Rome. It is a time when the Catholic church used brutal means to control the population, a brutality that Siciliano includes graphically. In addition to the violent means of social control depicted, Siciliano also includes the sexual oppression women of all social classes experienced. Gentileschi chooses a life in the arts because she is born into a family of painters. I expected to be more enchanted by Gentileschi’s life story, but the storytelling did not always inspire me. It is hard for me to discern what drawings represent Gentileschi’s art or the art of other painters of the era such as Caravaggio. I offer a positive review of this book because of the historic importance of Gentileschi’s story and the era in which it unfolds. I quickly connected the graphic depictions to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

  19. 5 out of 5

    a duck

    This is a great book to pick up if this is your first time approaching Artemisia's biography or if you are unfamiliar with the time period and related art history. Academic studies with all of their field-specific jargon can be very intimidating to readers who aren't trained in some history-related field (and, as I can attest, to art history grad students as well), so I always love seeing books that cater to a more broad audience. Siciliano includes a lot of helpful context and history to orient This is a great book to pick up if this is your first time approaching Artemisia's biography or if you are unfamiliar with the time period and related art history. Academic studies with all of their field-specific jargon can be very intimidating to readers who aren't trained in some history-related field (and, as I can attest, to art history grad students as well), so I always love seeing books that cater to a more broad audience. Siciliano includes a lot of helpful context and history to orient readers and place Artemisia's style and life in the greater context of 17th century Italy (and Europe). My major issue with this book is one that plagues nearly any work that talks about Artemisia's life and works. That is, dedicating a bulk of the space to her sexual assault while allowing much less time to the rest of her career. For example, when I looked at the 226 pages that make up the biographical graphic novel section of the book, 80 pages were dedicated to discussing the rape and the subsequent trial. This amounts to 35% of the book and covers a period from May 1611 to October of 1612. In contrast, Artemisia's time in Florence (May 1612-1621) is contained in roughly 11.5% of the story, while her stay in Venice (1626/7 to 1629) makes up about 4.5%. Finally, the last section, spent in Naples and, briefly, in England, (1630-1656?) is told in the last 17%. I say all this to emphasize that Artemisia's career in Florence, Venice, Naples, and England, throughout which she created her most famous masterpieces and made unprecedented leaps forward for women artists, make up 33% of the book. I want to remind you that her rape and the trial, which only lasted for just over a year, take up 35%. Again, this isn't a problem singular to Siciliano as art historians and the general public alike too easily slip into a pattern of heavily emphasizing the assault rather than her career, but I still feel the need to point it out because it bothers me immensely. Yes, of course that experience was bound to be traumatic, and it can undoubtably be seen as an influence for some of her works, but there is also something to be said about relegating this incredibly accomplished artist to a status as a victim. I also want to point out that Artemisia experience other traumas throughout her life (including losing three of her children) and often this is either never even mentioned or brought up in passing (in this particular book we only get a handful of panels describing the death of her children). On too many occasions the sexual assault becomes the focus of the conversation, taking up much more time than her long and accomplished career and her ties to other important women of the period. In some ways, it is like hundreds of years later we are still forcing a woman to be a victim rather than allowing her to be seen as more than that.

  20. 5 out of 5

    alailiander

    I was beyond excited to fnd this book and it did not disappoint. It was a wonderfully illustrated and thoughtful biography, with just enough creative liberties taken/imagined to feel cohesive, but realistic. I was caught off-guard at first to find black and white ball point pen illustrations in a graphic novel (particularly one with this beutiful binding quality. Yes, I judge books by their covers/bindings. So sue me.) As it went on, I both appreciated the illustrations for the simplicity of med I was beyond excited to fnd this book and it did not disappoint. It was a wonderfully illustrated and thoughtful biography, with just enough creative liberties taken/imagined to feel cohesive, but realistic. I was caught off-guard at first to find black and white ball point pen illustrations in a graphic novel (particularly one with this beutiful binding quality. Yes, I judge books by their covers/bindings. So sue me.) As it went on, I both appreciated the illustrations for the simplicity of medium, but also begrudged it. I wished for color. Florence isn’t Florence without color and Artemisia looks so blond in the book. Also, the occassional ball point pen globs are very distracting. It also seemed to me that perhaps the artistry improved as the book went on - the illustrations become finer and stronger as the story progresses. Better pen strokes. I suppose this makes sense in terms of composing a graphic novel of this scale. Given the illustration style, the sheer density of marks that could go into a single page were occasionally a bit exhausting. And again, I think such fine tip medium and in black and white sometimes flattened the artwork in a way that wouldn't have been my first choice. All that being bitched about, there is some amazing artwork here. Gorgeous design elements like the character intro pages, which are like ... iconographic and biographic and, just, super neat. The architecture is beautifully presented. It is also to the author's credit that it is surprisingly easy to keep track of the characters on the page, these are small panels with a lot of people in them and I rarely struggled to track them (though I admit I lost the visual thread on the minor characters a few times). There is a reason this is called The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi - while some writers would have condensed the historical context into a frame or two, this author would spend a page or two. There was obviously a lot of thought and research put into that aspect of the narrative. Which will, I imagine, interest some readers more than others. I admit, it wasn't my most favorite part, but I did like that the notes section presented even more of it along with thoughtful discussions on why the author made the choices she did/invented the scenes she did, etc. This isn't my first book on Artemisia, and probably won't be my last. For now, it is definitely my fave.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Artemisia Gentileschi has long been one of my faves, since "what if Caravaggio, but with badass ladies" is pretty much my platonic ideal of what art should be. But I was only familiar with the basic details of her biography, and I'm so glad to know her better! Siciliano does a masterful job synthesizing scholarship on Gentileschi and her cultural and political context, lightly fictionalizing her sources for the sake of a coherent narrative. This is no slouch of a graphic biography - it's dense wi Artemisia Gentileschi has long been one of my faves, since "what if Caravaggio, but with badass ladies" is pretty much my platonic ideal of what art should be. But I was only familiar with the basic details of her biography, and I'm so glad to know her better! Siciliano does a masterful job synthesizing scholarship on Gentileschi and her cultural and political context, lightly fictionalizing her sources for the sake of a coherent narrative. This is no slouch of a graphic biography - it's dense with text, and at times you will lose track of rival Italian painters (not to mention the finer details of the Thirty Years War). But if you're interested in social history, and in particular the intellectual history of early modern Europe, this book is a fantastic entry point. I am now desperate to read more about figures like Arcangela Tarabotti and Masaniello, who destabilize all our old wrong ideas about the pre-industrial world. I really loved the art - Siciliano uses ballpoint pen as her drawing tool of choice, rendering each page precise yet achingly human. I have such a weakness for pen and ink comics, and Siciliano's copies of Baroque artwork in particular show impeccable draftsmanship. (Not to mention all those Renaissance Italian cityscapes...) I really wish I had a stuffy aunt, one who chooses all her reading material off the New York Review of Books and hasn't yet discovered that comics are literature. I would give her this book! Instead I will have to be my own stuffy aunt, which is pretty much my vibe anyway.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    The graphic novel, “I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi” is a beautifully illustrated life story of the most famous female Italian Renaissance painter of the 17th century. For anyone who is fascinated by the history of the time period told through the eyes of a strong female figure in art history, I highly recommend this book. Trained as a painter by her father, Orazio, she left her hometown of Rome, for Florence where she was able to establish her artistic independence The graphic novel, “I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi” is a beautifully illustrated life story of the most famous female Italian Renaissance painter of the 17th century. For anyone who is fascinated by the history of the time period told through the eyes of a strong female figure in art history, I highly recommend this book. Trained as a painter by her father, Orazio, she left her hometown of Rome, for Florence where she was able to establish her artistic independence away from her father. During her lifetime, she chased opportunities that enabled her to also live in Venice, Naples, and London. Artemisia was the first woman to become a member of the Academy of the Arts of Drawing (Accademia Di Arte Del Disegno). For such a complex life story set inside a monumental time period, Gina wrote a captivating story that is stunningly complimented by these hand drawn illustrations. Each person Artemisia crossed paths with in her life was visually distinguishable throughout her story that was easy to follow. There was so much depth to Artemisia’s story of making her mark in a male dominated profession. This book is a snippet into her world and the hardships she faced and how each experience made her stronger. Learning to read and write later in life to communicate with potential patrons, she wrote to one of them: “I will show your Illustrious Lordship what a woman can do... With me Your Lordship will . . . find the spirit of Caesar in the soul of a woman.”

  23. 4 out of 5

    Fredrik

    The only thing I know of the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series is that it introduced a fifth, female ninja turtle named Venus. The common consensus is that the series is bad, but that this turtle was not named Artemis after the accomplished 17th century painter Artemisia Gentileschi is already a travesty enough, and a serious indictment of both the sexism and creative bankruptcy it suffered under. I was aware of Artemisia Gentileschi before, but only in the context of being compared The only thing I know of the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series is that it introduced a fifth, female ninja turtle named Venus. The common consensus is that the series is bad, but that this turtle was not named Artemis after the accomplished 17th century painter Artemisia Gentileschi is already a travesty enough, and a serious indictment of both the sexism and creative bankruptcy it suffered under. I was aware of Artemisia Gentileschi before, but only in the context of being compared with Caravaggio, the founder of the style she developed further. Well, after having read this illustrated biography I can say that she is the more worthy of praise; both in terms of the quality of work, the struggles she endured and the length of her career. As for the book, it wouldn't be accurate to say I enjoyed it, but it's a fascinating retelling of her life. For a graphical novel it's surprisingly text-heavy, but the blocks of facts and information are nicely juxtaposed with simple, but expressive comic panels illustrating the dramatic moments of Artemisia's life and times, as well as pencil recreations of her paintings.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Miller

    This book is meticulous in its attention to detail, biographical and artistic. Siciliano puts together a captivating narrative from the known facts of Artemisia Gentileschi's life and career, and I found the notes in the back to be fascinating as well. The trick of contrasting actual quoted material with imagined dialog by using capitalization is useful in showing the author's craft of building a more complete story out of documentary evidence that is sometimes ambiguous or fragmentary. This is This book is meticulous in its attention to detail, biographical and artistic. Siciliano puts together a captivating narrative from the known facts of Artemisia Gentileschi's life and career, and I found the notes in the back to be fascinating as well. The trick of contrasting actual quoted material with imagined dialog by using capitalization is useful in showing the author's craft of building a more complete story out of documentary evidence that is sometimes ambiguous or fragmentary. This is a book you can really learn from, whether you're interested in art or Italy or the history of relations between the sexes. Beyond that, the artwork is thrilling, and that includes both Siciliano's renderings of the historical figures and her imitations of the epic canvasses of Gentileschi and others. And the sense of honesty that informs her historical research also extends to the emotional resonance of the characters and their experiences. No one is idolized, and no one is assassinated (except, of course, the people who were actually assassinated), but every one is more or less believable in their 17th century context. All in all, it's one of the best history comics I've ever read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Gina Siciliano is remarkably talented. Her dense graphic biography of Artemisia Gentileschi is clearly a labor of love, and (as she mentions in her preface) of her own healing. Siciliano’s extensive research is evident. However, Siciliano trades accessibility for meticulousness. There is so much information that all but the most persistent readers will find themselves tangled in the details of various historical figures and how they all relate to each other. I wish that at least one of the revie Gina Siciliano is remarkably talented. Her dense graphic biography of Artemisia Gentileschi is clearly a labor of love, and (as she mentions in her preface) of her own healing. Siciliano’s extensive research is evident. However, Siciliano trades accessibility for meticulousness. There is so much information that all but the most persistent readers will find themselves tangled in the details of various historical figures and how they all relate to each other. I wish that at least one of the review journals had mentioned the multiple instances of sex acts that Siciliano chose to portray. Given the fact that Artemisia was a victim of rape as a teen, and that she had to navigate a very male-dominated art world, the images are not gratuitous, but they also aren’t necessary to the flow of the narrative. Recommended for readers who will appreciate an in-depth intersection of art history, European history, and women’s studies. For a more approachable introduction to this fascinating woman’s life, get your hands on Joy McCullough’s Blood, Water, Paint.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennie S

    A beautifully illustrated piece that pays homage to the life not only of Artemisia Gentileschi, but also to other female artists, writers, and philosophers of her time. It's a bit denser than most would likely expect from a graphic novel, occasionally reading more like a dissertation than a biography. Siciliano attempts the arduous task of contextualizing the social, economic, and political landscape of Artemisia's life, which often overwhelms the reader with names, dates, and political and grou A beautifully illustrated piece that pays homage to the life not only of Artemisia Gentileschi, but also to other female artists, writers, and philosophers of her time. It's a bit denser than most would likely expect from a graphic novel, occasionally reading more like a dissertation than a biography. Siciliano attempts the arduous task of contextualizing the social, economic, and political landscape of Artemisia's life, which often overwhelms the reader with names, dates, and political and group affiliations. In some ways, it feels like the overlooked female artist is not even the focus of her own narrative - her biography probably comprises about 50% of the book, while the rest is a history lesson on the major players of 17th century Europe. However, the novel is well-researched, thorough, and gorgeously illustrated. It is clear this work was an act of love by the author, and her attention to detail highlights the talent and trials of Artemisia in a way that other art historians have too often overlooked.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I absolutely loved this. Full disclosure, I had the pleasure of seeing Siciliano speak at 2019 ALA Annual conference. Her talk about trauma in graphic novels really caught my ear, and that's what got me interested in this book. It's a dense text, which I appreciate. Siciliano goes into depth talking about where Gentileschi's work fits into the greater scope of art history. It's not something I am super familiar with, so having that really helped me fit her into things. Based on her talk, I expected I absolutely loved this. Full disclosure, I had the pleasure of seeing Siciliano speak at 2019 ALA Annual conference. Her talk about trauma in graphic novels really caught my ear, and that's what got me interested in this book. It's a dense text, which I appreciate. Siciliano goes into depth talking about where Gentileschi's work fits into the greater scope of art history. It's not something I am super familiar with, so having that really helped me fit her into things. Based on her talk, I expected her to be darker, really focusing in on the psychology of the trauma. In that way, I did find it to be a bit tame. There wasn't a lot of exploration of her trauma. However, what I appreciated was that it did not glorify or sensationalize the sexual violence either. I just really loved the history and politics and depth of this graphic novel.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I became fascinatied with Gentileschi after seeing her ‘Judith and Holofernes’ at the Uffizi. Discovering such a dark violent painting was created by a female artist of these times blew my mind, and after reading about her life and her achievements I became obsessed. She survived the loss of her mother as a child, sexual violence, misogyny, torture, child mortality, poverty, abandonment, disease and even a deadly volcano. An extraordinary life, a phenomenal and prolific artist, a single mother a I became fascinatied with Gentileschi after seeing her ‘Judith and Holofernes’ at the Uffizi. Discovering such a dark violent painting was created by a female artist of these times blew my mind, and after reading about her life and her achievements I became obsessed. She survived the loss of her mother as a child, sexual violence, misogyny, torture, child mortality, poverty, abandonment, disease and even a deadly volcano. An extraordinary life, a phenomenal and prolific artist, a single mother and a feminist centuries ahead of her time. This is a beautiful book in an original ‘comic book’ style, an incredibly well researched biography and historical account of Renaissance Italy. Most of her paintings and many of her peers such as Caravaggio are recreated in ballpoint pen and it is clearly a labour of love by the author. Very special

  29. 4 out of 5

    Aida

    This is a phenomenal piece of work. Siciliano has clearly put an abundance of care, effort, and detail into fashioning a dedicated retelling of Artemisia's story and I'm so grateful. I had never heard of Artemisia, and now I feel like I've been given a window into another world and another time. TW; this book deals with sexual violence, and is a graphic novel, though all sexually explicit scenes are done with care, not exploitation. You can see the dedication Siciliano has to portraying the stori This is a phenomenal piece of work. Siciliano has clearly put an abundance of care, effort, and detail into fashioning a dedicated retelling of Artemisia's story and I'm so grateful. I had never heard of Artemisia, and now I feel like I've been given a window into another world and another time. TW; this book deals with sexual violence, and is a graphic novel, though all sexually explicit scenes are done with care, not exploitation. You can see the dedication Siciliano has to portraying the stories of survivors of sexual assault and their journeys with understanding and empathy. However, if you want to learn about a badass woman artist from the 17th century, while seeing some excellent drawings of her work and those of other artists, this book is for you.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Fantastic graphic biography of Italian Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi and her world. Just saw "Judith Slaying Holofernes" at SAM and was delighted to find this in my library holds the next day (I forgot I put a hold on it many months ago). Gentileschi was a remarkable painter and woman who endured many trials and tribulations in her lifetime, not the least of which was a horrific sexual assault when she was a young woman, and the rampant misogyny of Renaissance-era Italy. This is a de Fantastic graphic biography of Italian Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi and her world. Just saw "Judith Slaying Holofernes" at SAM and was delighted to find this in my library holds the next day (I forgot I put a hold on it many months ago). Gentileschi was a remarkable painter and woman who endured many trials and tribulations in her lifetime, not the least of which was a horrific sexual assault when she was a young woman, and the rampant misogyny of Renaissance-era Italy. This is a dense and text-heavy graphic novel and the illustration style may seem a little wooden to some readers, but I found Gentileschi's story so fascinating that I couldn't stop reading. Now I want to read more about this extraordinary artist's life!

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