Focus on: Artemisia Gentileschi – for International Women's Day

To mark International Women's Day, Lund Humphries Commissioning Editor for Art History Erika Gaffney considers our March Book of the Month – Artemisia Gentileschi by Sheila Barker – and how Lund Humphries' books are bringing previously neglected historic women artists to the art-loving public of today...

More than 400 years after her lifetime, seventeenth-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi remains relevant. She has fired the imagination of 21st-century art lovers and feminists. Previously unknown paintings of hers continue to come to light. Her work has been displayed in—and in at least two cases has been the central focus of—recent art exhibitions in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy. More shows in which her work will feature are coming up in 2023-24 in Berlin, Hamburg, Basel, Madrid, Baltimore and Toronto. She is even the muse for a clothing line to debut this autumn!

But above all, Artemisia has inspired books. She is the subject of not only exhibition catalogs and scholarly monographs, but also of popular non-fiction books and fictional works, including at least one graphic novel. Within a long list of such publications, Artemisia Gentileschi, by Sheila Barker, stands out. Examining the artist’s life and work through the lens of cutting-edge scholarship, Barker opens readers’ eyes to Artemisia’s pictorial intelligence, as well as to her achievement of a remarkably lucrative and high-profile career. Incorporating discussion of fresh archival discoveries and newly attributed paintings, the study brings to life the extraordinary story of this Baroque artist, placing her within a socio-historical context.


Author Sheila Barker is a leading expert on Italian women artists, including not only Artemisia, but also Giovanna Garzoni, Lucrezia Quistelli, and Teresa Berenice Vitelli. In Artemisia Gentileschi, Barker weaves in-depth explorations of key artworks through the narrative. Examining the paintings in terms of their iconographies and technical characteristics, she traces developments in Gentileschi’s approach to her craft, and portrays the gradual evolution of the artist’s expressive goals and techniques. 

As one would expect, given that it is written by a prominent Artemisia scholar, the text is authoritative. Yet it is at the same time accessible to, and engaging for, non-specialists, whether art lovers, feminists, and/or scholars from other fields. This accessibility is an important and deliberate feature of the series in which it is published, Illuminating Women Artists. The series profiles important but underrecognized women artists from the Renaissance to the 18th century. Many of the women represented by the volumes were celebrated professional artists in their own eras, yet whether through benign neglect or deliberate erasure, their names and works have not been passed down continually in the history of art.


Happily, there’s a movement underway now—among art historians, curators, dealers and collectors, authors of historic fiction, and other stakeholders—to recover the names, stories and works of history’s women artists, and to recognize and celebrate their achievements. Illuminating Women Artists contributes to the effort with beautifully illustrated and invitingly written overviews of the accomplishments of individual female makers. Forthcoming later this year are volumes on Elisabetta Sirani and Rosalba Carriera (the 350th anniversary of whose birth we celebrate this year). Books profiling Clara Peeters, Louise Moillon, Sofonisba Anguissola and Josefa de Óbidos are in advanced planning stages, and there are many more titles to come! 

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Our Illuminating Women Artists series is co-published with Getty in North America. 

Visit our Women in the Arts Bookshelf and get 20% off with code WHM20 until the end of March. 

Please note: our 20% discount is not available on Illuminating Women Artists series publications in North America.

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Image above: Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, c.1624-7, oil on canvas, 187.2 x 142 cm, Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts