Artemisia Visits

Artemisia's 'Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria' travels to meet new audiences at five unusual venues, including a women's prison, a doctor's surgery and a public library

The National Gallery, London

Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1615-17) by Artemisia GentileschiThe National Gallery, London

Artemisia Gentileschi's Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, about 1615–17, was bought by the National Gallery in 2018. 

It was the first work by the artist to enter the collection.

To celebrate this major acquisition the Gallery decided to try something it had never done before.

Rather than asking the public to come and see this new national treasure at the Gallery's home in Trafalgar Square, London, the Gallery decided that Artemisia would come to them.

Five unusual venues were chosen – places where important historic paintings would never normally be shown.

To follow Artemisia's historic visits, the National Gallery made a series of films to record the effect she had on those who met her.

'This is about taking paintings to the people and not expecting them to come into museums and galleries.' Jane Knowles, Head of Exhibitions, The National Gallery

Artemisia Visits: Glasgow Women's Library (2019) by The National Gallery, LondonThe National Gallery, London

Glasgow Women's Library

Artemisia's first stop was the only accredited museum dedicated to women's history in the UK.

'Have you met our visitor? It's the first time I've been gob-smacked when I came to work!' Practice Nurse, Pocklington Group Practice

Artemisia Visits: Pocklington Group Practice, Yorkshire (2019) by The National Gallery, LondonThe National Gallery, London

Pocklington Group Practice

The role of art in supporting mental health and wellbeing was the theme of Artemisia's second visit – to a doctor's surgery in North Yorkshire.  

'You can tell by her eyes, in a way. It shows, like, strength and confidence.'
'She's a real inspiration for girls.' Pupils, Sacred Heart Catholic High School

Artemisia Visits: Sacred Heart Catholic High School, Newcastle upon Tyne (2019) by The National Gallery, LondonThe National Gallery, London

Sacred Heart Catholic High School

Artemisia's next stop was a girls' school run by an organisation founded in the 19th century by pioneering women who wished to create educational opportunities for girls.  

'I've formed a bond with her now, she's my mate.' Inmate, HMP Send

HM Prison Send, UK (2019) by The National Gallery, LondonThe National Gallery, London

HMP Send, a women's prison

An absolute first for a national collection: Artemisia's fourth visit was to HMP Send.

'I know there are children and young people who don't feel empowered to go to central London and walk into galleries. For them to be able to see that work here, that's really, really important.' Councillor Claire Coghill. Leader, Waltham Forest Council

Artemisia Visits: Wood Street Library, Walthamstow (2019) by The National Gallery, LondonThe National Gallery, London

Wood Street Library

A public space serving a whole community, young and old, was the venue for Artemisia's fifth and final visit.

'This is the most exciting project I've ever worked on.' Gracie Divall, Exhibitions Manager (National Touring)

Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1615-17) by Artemisia GentileschiThe National Gallery, London

'This picture just speaks to people.'

Artemisia's journey around the UK was a huge success. Wherever it went, the picture sparked curiosity, admiration and delight. People were amazed to find such a precious work of art in their local community.

For many, it was their first experience of a major work of art. Credit for the success of this journey must go to the power of Artemisia's skills as a painter and storyteller. 

As the curator Letizia Treves put it: 
'This picture just speaks to people.'

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps