Get to know the great Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi

How Artemisia Gentileschi inspired illustrator Rachael Siddall with her eye-catching work


By Ally Faughnan


For the launch of the Made By Women x The Gallyry bookmarks, our Made By Women series celebrates inspiring artists through conversations with amazing illustrators. Check out the bookmarks over on Etsy.


If you’ve seen Rachael Siddall’s illustrations, you would have been captivated by their eye-catching and charismatic designs. Created using traditional and digital formats, Rachael uses linocut and oil-based printing ink to make her relief prints, which specialise in portraiture imagery relating to female subject matter.


One female which Rachael has illustrated is Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the great Italian Baroque painters. Artemisia’s representation of women has inspired Rachael in her own illustrations, as the painter portrays the female body as dynamic rather than fetishising them as subject matters.


Courtesy of Rachael Siddall

Please can you tell us a bit about your illustration of Artemisia Gentileschi?


Artemisia Gentileschi is one of the most recognised female European painters of the 17th century. But due to society’s opinion of women in that era, she had to be subtle in the way she portrayed her skill as a painter and her personal achievements. She achieved this through her use of props and compositions, especially within self-portraiture, this really influenced the illustrations I made of her.


Gentileschi’s use of herself as the subject matter for themes, especially biblical, was another inspiration for my illustrations. In the Baroque era women were starting to place themselves in the main roles of their paintings, be it mythological or biblical. It’s an important development for European female painters of that era and felt necessary to touch upon.


"Artemisia’s portrayal of women and the female body was dynamic and didn’t fetishise them as subject matters – which wasn't the norm in classical European paintings of her time." – Rachael Siddall

How does Artemisia inspire you in your work and life?


Artemisia’s portrayal of women and the female body was dynamic and didn’t fetishise them as subject matters – which wasn't the norm in classical European paintings of her time. My imagery revolves around the female form and I aim for these themes that Artemisia explored to be evident in my own practice.



Do you have a favourite work by Gentileschi?


My favourite painting of Gentileschi’s is her second version of ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’. It portrays a biblical narrative of Judith and her maidservant beheading the general Holofernes as he sleeps. I think it’s incredible, it’s a painting that makes me go quiet in awe. The display of power and determination in the female characters is mesmerising, they always hold my attention more than the general who’s being beheaded. I thinks that’s quite the feat.


"My imagery revolves around the female form and I aim for these themes that Artemisia explored to be evident in my own practice." – Rachael Siddall

Artemisia Gentileschi once said: “My illustrious lordship, I’ll show you what a woman can do.” Are there any amazing women artists who you’re loving right now?


The printmaker Kathleen Neeley immediately comes to mind. There’s a theme and mythology to Neeley’s work that is entirely her own. Her imagery and skill within relief printing is unparalleled in my opinion. I’m always excited when I see a new print by Neeley and her work pushes me to improve my own practice.


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