Artemisia comes to Waltham Forest

Published 30 May by Owen Kimm

Today, the National Gallery has revealed that Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1615–17) by the celebrated artist of the Italian Baroque, Artemisia Gentileschi, will be on display at Wood Street Library in Walthamstow from Saturday 1 June to Sunday 16 June. 

Wood Street Library will be the last venue of a nationwide tour that has seen the picture visit a Yorkshire GP surgery, a Newcastle girls high school, a Glasgow Women’s Library and a women’s prison.

The painting will be displayed as part of the E17 Art Trail, which this year is focusing on the theme of ‘wonder’ in art and science, as well as celebrating radical, pioneering and extraordinary women. The presentation of Artemisia’s self-portrait in Wood Street Library is also a key part of Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019’s commitment to providing access to museum-quality works of art in local venues across the borough.

Through spring and summer 2019, the painting has undertaken a series of ‘visits’ to unusual and unexpected venues across the UK. It has reached different audiences and been enjoyed by people who may not be able to see it in Trafalgar Square. 

Returning to London, Artemisia will make an important final stop in Waltham Forest. During this time it will also be the subject of several workshops.

Artemisia Gentileschi is considered one of the most accomplished painters among the followers of Caravaggio, whom she may have known personally through her father, Orazio. In an era when female artists were not easily accepted, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence and had a truly international clientele, including royalty.

Artemisia faced challenges in both her professional and personal life: she was raped by a fellow painter and was subjected to gruelling questioning and physical torture during the trial that ensued. Her biography has long overshadowed her artistic achievements, but today she is recognised as one of the most talented painters of her generation.