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06.11.2020- Cultural Capital: Artemisia Gentileschi at the National Gallery

The day before we entered into our second lockdown, and by sheer lucky coincidence, I had booked tickets to visit the National Gallery for their much-anticipated Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition. It's one which had been on my radar since the very beginning of the year, and after being delayed by the first lockdown, it finally opened after the summer. Oddly enough, the Wednesday just gone was the first slot I could book for, so I felt extremely fortunate to be able to make it along before the gallery sadly closed yesterday for a month. I felt nothing but safe for the duration of my visit, with timed entry, reduced numbers, a one way system, mandatory face coverings and sanitising points across the gallery to make it Covid secure. This is only the second exhibition I've visited this year, but it was definitely worth the wait, and exploring Artemisia's art in such strange global circumstances made it feel all the more resonant:

Artemisia's life story and pathway to becoming the incredible artist she was is completely fascinating, and I'm honestly so surprised that I wasn't more aware of her work before this year. There's no question that her paintings are absolutely incredible, and almost photo-real in their detail and depiction of their subjects. Her choice of subjects is also fascinating, particularly in terms of centering female protagonists at the heart of so many paintings. Seeing these women through a female gaze when we're so used to seeing figures like this as depicted by male artists was really interesting- and what struck me about so many of the paintings on display here was that they featured women in action- seizing control of their own destinies and challenging the status quo; a sentiment which is all the more potent and meaningful when thinking about Artemisia's own personal experiences. 

I'm really looking forward to finding out more about her, and cannot recommend the exhibition enough. Now, more than ever, it made me realise that we need art to help us connect with the past to understand the present and our place in the world- fingers crossed that it won't be long before more people can make it along and explore the legacy of this incredible artist for themselves.

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)


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