Artemisia Exhibition

Discover Europe's first female Old Master at the National Gallery's brilliant new exhibition. Peter Gray reports.

The National Gallery’s fascinating new Artemisia exhibition will showcase the work of the ground-breaking Italian artist during a period when major female artists were few and far between.

The first major retrospective of her work in the UK, Artemisia will bring together around 35 works from a variety of public and private collections, offering art lovers a thrilling introduction to the artist.

Featuring some of Artemisia’s most successful works, alongside a selection of recently discovered pieces, the collection will shine a light on the woman who has become known as Europe’s greatest female old master.

The exhibition follows the galleries recent purchase of the artist’s Self-portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandra. Costing an eye catching £3.6million pounds, eyebrows were initially raised at the purchase, however, given the work’s significance to the history of female art, the gallery felt that it was money well spent.

At the time of the acquisition, the extraordinary fact emerged that the National Gallery had only 24 works by women in its entire collection. And given that the galleries collection stretches to over  of 2,300 paintings, drawings and sculptures, this was really saying something.

National Gallery trustee Hannah Rothschild said of the purchase: “The acquisition of this great painting by Artemisia Gentileschi realises a long-held dream of increasing the National Gallery’s collection of paintings by important women artists. Gentileschi was a pioneer, a master storyteller and one of the most progressive and expressive painters of the period. One of a handful of women who was able to shatter the confines of her time, she overcame extreme personal difficulties to succeed in the art of painting. This picture will help us transform how we collect, exhibit and tell the story of women artists throughout history.”

Artemisia was born in Rome in 1593. The daughter of painter Orazio Gentileschi, for many years Artemisia trained under her father. In 1611, Artemisia was raped by a friend of her father, the painter Agostino Tassi. A trial followed in 1612 with Tassi found guilty and punished by being banished from Rome. The punishment was never enforced however, with Tassi walking out of the court a free man.

Shortly after the trial, Artemisia married the Florentine artist Pierantonio di Vincenzo Stiattesi. Following the wedding, the pair moved to Florence.  Despite giving birth to five children, Gentileschi never gave up her painting. Indeed, it was while in Florence that the artist fained the distinction of becoming the first woman to gain membership to the prestigious Academy of the Arts of Drawing.

After a period in Rome, Artemisia finally settled in Naples, where she set up a successful studio. Although her rape and subsequent trial cast a shadow over her career for many years, Gentileschi achieved much success in her life, with the Grand Duke of Tuscany and King Philip IV among her clients.

The Artemisia Exhibition at the National Gallery will open on the 3rd of October 2020 and run until the 24th of January 2021. For more information, please click here.

For information on other great exhibitions in London, please click here.



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-London's Best Events-
What: new exhibition
When: 3 Oct 20 - 24 Jan 2021
Where: National Gallery