Tag Archives: Strong women

Happy Birthday, Artemisia Gentileschi.

8 Jul

Self-portrait_as_the_Allegory_of_Painting_by_Artemisia_GentileschiToday I would like to honor and pay tribute to Artemisia Gentileschi. She would have been 420 years old today.  Gentileschi was born on July 8, 1593 and remains one of my favorite Baroque painters. She was heavily influenced by Caravaggio. It is not a big surprise that women were not accepted as legitimate artists during the Baroque period, which makes it that more impressive that our Gentileschi was the first female painter to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.

Artemisia was the daughter of the well known artist, Orazio Gentileschi. Her father had commissioned Agostino Tassi to tutor Artemisia.  The raping of women not being an uncommon practice, Agostino Tassi and Cosimo Quorlis raped Artemisia. A seven month trial ensued, basically raping Artemisia repeatedly by subjecting her to a gynecological examinations and the use of torture (thumbscrews) to corroborate the truth of her allegation. Eventually, Tassi was sentenced to one year in prison. I suspect that my favorite painting of Artemisia Gentileschi’s is Judith Slaying Holofernes; I always wonder if in someway she is telling her own story of being raped through Judith. The painting features in a fantastic Masterpiece Theatre movie called Painted Lady that one should see to learn more about our Artemisia.  The movie was written for and stars our Helen Mirren.

Artemisia knew the low regard given women in the arts and started her career with bold images. As was customary for the time, many of her paintings depict biblical scenes and stories. She focused on depictions of women, especially strong women dealing with difficult circumstances. Her struggle to be taken seriously and her horrific experiences during the rape and trial helped to inform her work.

She is known as a master of both chiaroscuro and tenebrism, making expert use of light and shadow to create powerful images through contrast and dramatic illumination. While she is most associated with Florence, she lived and worked in Rome, Naples, and Venice, taking in the influences and styles of all the major art scenes of the day. In the 19th Century, her works were used to shock students — can you believe a woman did this?! — but her career was given new life in the 1970s as feminist art historians (both men and women) demanded she be given her proper due.

Artemisia Gentileschi is widely recognized as one of the most expressive and progressive painters of her time. Using her life circumstances and her amazing natural talent, she created an impressive body of work (at least 65 paintings) that demonstrate both mastery and beauty.

Moment in Women’s History: Tallulah Bankhead

12 Dec

On December 12, 1968 the world lost an enigmatic and self-purported “wild” treasure.  Tallulah Bankhead died at the young age of 66.  Bankhead was quite famous for her deep, throaty, and evocative voice.  Some of my favorite quotes by Bankhead are:

I’m not at my best when I start to moralize or philosophize. Logic is elusive, especially to one who so rarely uses it…I’m as pure as the driven slush…If I had my life to live over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.

Bankhead was a woman who spoke her mind and worked to be her own person, living life on her terms–quite remarkable for a woman of her generation.

Yes, there were many rumors that Bankhead was bisexual and Bankhead herself helped to promote these rumors. She was a long standing Democrat and a supporter of liberal causes.  She actually worked on the campaign for FDR.  My hope is that Bankhead will inspire many future generations of women to live life on their own terms and not allow anyone to limit their potential.

Women’s History: April 23

23 Apr

Catherine of Aragon

April 23, 1533, Catherine of Aragon is annulled by Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn was already pregnant–just good family values.  Nothing like starting your own religion (Anglican Church) so you can get a divorce.  Thomas Cornwall said of Catherine: If not for her sex, she could have defied all the heroes of History.  After being successfully (cough cough) married for 24 years to good old Hank, she was summarily dismissed from the throne for not bearing a son. Well that and Hank was already carrying on with Anne and other women. Catherine did bear an heir to the throne however. Bloody Mary, ever faithful to her mother and to the Catholic church, becomes Queen of England and restores England to Catholicism, the faith of her mother, Catherine. I think I chose Catherine to celebrate today for her strength and determination.  I have always been saddened that Catherine of Aragon has seemed under-appreciated. To learn more about Catherine of Aragon, click here.

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