Artemisiagentileschi: Visionary

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ArtemisiaGentileschi: Visionary
Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome in 1593, just before the beginning of the Baroque era. Gentileschi’s father was also an artist; he shared his techniques with his daughter who spent hours in his workshop before attempting to create works of her own.
In her early teens, Artemisia claimed to have been raped by her artistic mentor, a possible cause of her feministic and brutally naturalistic views in the art world. Paintings like Judith Slaying Holofernes have sometimes overshadowed Self-Portrait due to their shocking subject matter from a woman at that time. For a woman at the beginning of the 17th century, being a painter represented an uncommon and difficult challenge.
Gentileschi adopted her style of chiaroscuro from Caravaggio, whose paintings combined realistic observations of the human state with dramatic lighting. In this lighting, the viewer was able to detect multiple saturation levels of a given color. This new technique of shadowing changed the standard from simple black shading to lower levels of color by mixing in small amounts of black paint. Gentileschi exemplified her ability to use chiaroscuro in Judith Slaying Holofernes where deep reds fade in the blood that runs down the sheets and into darkness.
In her Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, the use of lighting can be noted as an important component. The light is coming from the left, but is unique in that the source is not visible and is unusually harsh. The front of Gentileschi’s body is lit perfectly, but her back is in darkness. From the forehead and cheeks and down the side of the neck and left shoulder a clear line can be seen, separating light from dark. This technique of illumination was used frequently during the Baroque era to add a sense of drama, and may even be held as an extreme example of chiaroscuro (Garrard).
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