Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Passion Of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

Ms. Vreeland seems to find her inspiration in art, all her novels are centered around works of art or the artists who created them. This one, my favorite thus far of those I've read, tells the story of Artemisia Gentileshi.

After enduring the humiliation of testifying against her rapist before a papal court, an ordeal that included a public, though mercifully behind a curtain, gynecological examination by a midwife, the eighteen-year-old artist marries a fellow artist and moves to Florence for a fresh start. She hopes she can have it all—love, family, and her art. But her rising fame soon threatens it all. Her husband, a mediocre artist rather than a great talent like his wife, is jealous of her success and rather than seeing opportunities in the doors that are now open to her, through which he himself  might make influential friends and acquire artistic commissions, he becomes sulky, bad tempered, and distant. Artemisia soon realizes “The two things I wanted most in life—painting and love—and one had killed any chance at the other.” After she discovers he has a mistress, ironically her first model, they part ways.

Artemisia moves on, to greater fame and glory, makes peace with her dying father, and sees her daughter, who lacks the talent, fire, and patience, to follow in her mother’s footsteps, happily settled.

I really enjoyed this novel, I loved learning about Artemisia’s life and art, my only complaint is that it ended rather abruptly. I would have liked to have known more and wish she had followed Artemisia to the end of her days. And, on a very personal note, her longing to have both her art and someone to love really struck a chord with me; all I've ever wanted was to be a writer and to have the right man in my life who accepts that’s part of who I am and is supportive and encouraging, but, so far at least, I’ve failed to find that, so I could really relate to Ms. Vreeland’s Artemisia. I look forward to reading more of her work.

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