Reflections on the ARTES visit to ‘Artemisia’ at the National Gallery (by Susan Wilson)

We waited in Trafalgar Sq last Wednesday to go in at 9:30 for an ARTES private viewing of Artemisia. A cold grey London Morning with people out, hurrying through the handsome classical space, St Martins-in the Fields looking austere and fine. A grey day in winter suits the square.

Inside, empty rooms and the chance to take time to see the paintings. We all felt over-excited to be back in the National Gallery and were thankful to Letitzia Treves, the exhibition curator, and Lucy Chiswell, her assistant, for making the visit possible, as it was cancelled in November. We locked down, the very next day.

There was good discussion amongst the members, wide-ranging conversation, and reunions among friends after being isolated. Muffly chats in masks.

I am fond of the loan from Pozzuoli -St Januarius being taken to the coliseum in
Pozzuoli to be martyred with a huge wolf snarling, at his side, and giant bears/lions who look a bit sweet, sinking in homage at his feet, tamed by his presence, having come in to attack. It is for me, as a painter, a good example of how a commission is pieced together. Had Artemisia seen a lion? It is an excellent loan, tender, and compelling. A painting we mightn’t have seen, no matter how thoroughly we visit churches in the Bay of Naples.

Finest for me was Susanna and the Elders from Pommersfelden (detail included below). It is worth the visit alone, as is The Right Hand of Artemisia Gentileschi holding a Brush, a soft black and red chalk drawing on loan from the Prints and Drawings department of the the British Museum.

detail of ‘Susannah and the Elders’ (1610, Kunstsammlungen Graf von Schönborn, Pommersfelden), photographed by Susan Wilson

We do Plan more visits for the future!
Susan Wilson, ARTES

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