Artemisia Gentileschi (July 8, 1593 – c. 1656)
Today, when another wave of feministic discourse is inquiring about the female artist’s position in the art world, we should remember Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter who became one of the first popular female artists. At a time when female painters struggled to obtain recognition from the artistic community and patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno.
The few known female painters of that era stayed in genres with lower status, like portraiture, still life and landscape, which had lower status in the genre hierarchy. Artemisia didn’t stay put. Thanks to her courage, she dared to create sound history paintings – considered the highest of all genres – with strong and suffering women from myths, allegories and the Bible.
One of her most famous paintings became Judith Slaying Holofernes (1614–20 version in the Uffizi gallery). Her paintings were seen as so bold and outstanding that a nineteenth-century critic commented on Artemisia's Magdalene stating, ‘No one would have imagined that it was the work of a woman’.
Risking breaking the rules and challenging her environment makes her not only an inspiration for every individual today but also marks her as a true rebel.