Here’s a head-scratcher. The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool has mounted a two-person show of 20th century great Pablo Picasso and 17th century great Artemesia Genileschi.
Why these two are paired is not a question that this show answers.
Rather than make sense out of the pairing, Walker director Sandra Penketh fixated on the get – the idea that she was able to borrow art by a famed old and modern master:
“This is an amazing opportunity to see art works rarely seen in Britain. The fact that we have been able to secure these two pictures on loan is evidence of the Walker Art Gallery’s reputation as one of the best galleries in Europe. We are very grateful to the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest for loaning us these two treasures from their collection.”
The “treasure” by Picasso is “Mother and Child,” 1905, which is billed as “a delicate and tender watercolor of his lover by a young Pablo Picasso.” His lover at the time was Dora Maar and he acted dreadfully towards her, even documenting in paint his eventual change of heart with a monstrously deformed portrait.
From all accounts of the relationship, it was he who imposed the monster image on her. Consider what he had to say about his once lover and favorite model after he dumped her:
“I wasn’t in love with Dora Maar. I liked her as though she were a man, and used to say, `You don’t attract me. I don’t love you.’ You can’t imagine the tears and hysterical scenes.”
Picasso made sure you got the picture by painting her crazed, with two faces angled so sharply they looked like they could – in the mind’s eye – cause physical harm to the touch.
Maar was but one in a long string of mistresses that Picasso maligned in person and in paint.
Gentileschi’s exhibit example “Jael and Sisera” describe Old Testament heroine Jael killing the Canaanite general Sisera just before she drives a nail through his head.
Gentileschi was known for painting violent subject matter and it can be argued that being raped by her art teacher as a teenager was a factor.
According to a 1612 transcript of a public criminal trial, 17-year-old Artemesia testified under voluntary torture of thumbscrews in order to be believed that her teacher attacked her. She was believed and the teacher was jailed for eight months.
For her grit, not to mention the fact that she was the first and only female painter of the 17th century to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, she’s become a feminist heroine today. http://rootshed.com/article/is-there-such-a-thing-as-female-art
Gentileschi’s most famous work, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” painted only two years after the rape, commemorates the Old Testament heroine Judith who cut off the head of the Assyrian general Holofernes to keep his army from overrunning her town. Gentileschi’s rendition, unlike so many others on this theme, is a brutal and bloody depiction of the excruciating moment of decapitation and Judith’s enormous effort to get the job done.
In the end, then, it can be said that there is a connection between Picasso and Gentileschi. One was a victim and the other a victimizer.