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Artemisia Gentileschi

Sheila Barker

This second volume in the groundbreaking Illuminating Women Artists series delves into the stirring life and work of the Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

The life of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–after 1654) was as exceptional as her paintings. She was a child prodigy, raised without a mother by her artist father, a follower of Caravaggio. Although she learned to paint under her father, she became an artist against his wishes. Later, as she moved between Florence, Rome, Venice, Naples, and London, her artistic style evolved, but throughout her career she specialized in large-scale, powerful, nuanced portrayals of women. This book highlights Gentileschi’s enterprising and original engagement with emerging feminist notions of the value and dignity of womanhood. 

Sheila Barker’s cutting-edge scholarship in Artemisia Gentileschi clears a pathway for all audiences to appreciate the artist’s pictorial intelligence, as well as her achievement of a remarkably lucrative and high-profile career at a time when few women were artists. Bringing to light newly attributed paintings and archival discoveries, this is the first biography to be written by an authority on Gentileschi since 1999. 

The volume is beautifully illustrated, and Barker weaves this extraordinary story with in-depth discussions of key artworks, such as Susanna and the Elders (1610), Judith Beheading Holofernes (c.1619–20), and Lot and His Daughters (1640–45). Also included is the J. Paul Getty Museum’s recent acquisition, Lucretia (c.1635–45). Through such works, Barker explores the evolution of Gentileschi’s expressive goals and techniques. 

Sheila Barker is director of the Jane Fortune Research Program on Women Artists in the Age of the Medici. She wrote the introduction to Lives of Artemisia Gentileschi (Getty, 2021) and is a contributor to Artemisia (2020). 

“Both scholarly and engaging—a veritable page turner.”
Erin J. Campbell, Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal

“Beautifully illustrated. . . . A close examination of the paintings and a case study in the vicissitudes of patronage.”
—Ann Landi, The Wall Street Journal

“A clear, compelling narrative that is both intellectually sophisticated and pleasurably accessible.”
—Mary D. Garrard, The Burlington Magazine

“Barker write[s] with great connoisseurial acumen, archival knowledge, and analytical power. Full of limpid prose and generous illustrations, [the book is] ready to charm a specialist as well as anyone new to the artist.”
—Yanzhang Cui, Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies

“A marvelously readable volume.”
—Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times

“Barker’s text weaves documentary evidence together with some excellent close visual analysis of her attributed paintings, unpacking the rich symbolism and its significance in her work, which offers a lively and vivid understanding of the wider contexts and motives behind her movements.”
—Olivia McEwan, Hyperallergic

“The book draws on new discoveries to overturn long-held ideas about Artemisia while introducing a more complex understanding of her as an artist, woman, and entrepreneur.”
—Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers, Foreword Reviews

“Over the last thirty years Artemisia Gentileschi has received a good deal of attention, to which Sheila Barker’s beautifully illustrated monograph is an outstanding contribution, brimming over with fresh insights and revelatory comparisons on nearly every page . . . essential reading for everyone who has studied this artist, as well as anyone who wishes to begin to know her.”
—John T. Spike, author of Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine and Caravaggio: Catalogue of Paintings 

“Sheila Barker paints a rich portrait of Artemisia’s early career . . . providing details of the artist’s life as well as the personalities she encountered. All in all, a major contribution to our understanding of Artemisia’s life and work.”
—Judith W. Mann, Curator, European Art to 1800, Saint Louis Art Museum

“Sheila Barker’s book provides a compelling and lively introduction to this endlessly fascinating, complex, and essential painter whose ambitious work challenged the gender-restricting conventions of her day by asserting her claim to be the equal of her male colleagues.”
—Keith Christiansen, Curator Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

“Sheila Barker’s cutting-edge scholarship in Artemisia Gentileschi clears a pathway for all audiences to appreciate the artist’s pictorial intelligence.”

Additional titles in this series.

144 pages 
7 1/2 x 9 7/8 inches
73 color illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-733-8

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Publications
Series: Illuminating Women Artists