The Passion of Artemisia (book review) Susan Vreeland


210624: when i took art history at u i really did not enjoy it, now i see it everywhere, love it everywhere, am endlessly fascinated by art. this is not my favourite era, favourite style, and some of the interest is biographical, but after all the theory, the critiques, the history- it is the art that matters and her work is powerful. will remember the first time i saw her 'judith slaying Holofernes' and the leering old men in 'Sussana at the bath'. do not know if if has bothered others but the famous 'rape of sabines'(not hers but referred to) always bothered me because... it always looked too much 'celebration'...


there is no ambiguity in this work: i do not know how plausible her enlightened awareness of personal value, of rightness against those who would deny her rape, or later call her whore, but it certainly makes me want to look at her work again. this is historical fiction. though how 'historical' i do not know, for the struggles of being a woman artist and mother do not seem to have diminished in the centuries. there is some contrast between faith in religion and the new scientific world heralded by her friend galileo. and how the world may not be ready for her art or his science...


this is historical fiction, this mix of fact recalled and fiction invented, and we are not somehow beyond prejudices the assaulted must face. this is concise, readable, so in one way this is fast, fluid reading on art history- particularly technical details of just how this or that work is made- and in another way dismaying that it is, always, again, the woman who is expected to forgive. after she works out her pain through years, decades, and finally her memorable paintings that last for all time...

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