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Passion of Artemisia (Vreeland) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Susan Vreeland's novel is about Artemisia Gentileschi, who—along with her father is the subject of a current show at the Metropolitan Museum. But in depicting Artemisia's life, Vreeland announces in a prefatory note that she has been true to the record ''only so long as fact furnishes believable drama,'' and that she seeks to portray her subject ''in a way meaningful to us.'' Alas, Vreeland fails on both counts.... Vreeland seems to think she can make all this ''meaningful'' by imbuing it with a dated 1970's-style feminism.... See the [2002 museum] show; skip the novel.
Julie Gray - New York Times


Vreeland follows up the success of Girl in Hyacinth Blue with another novel delving into the themes of art, history and the lives of women. Narrated in the wise, candid first-person voice of Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653), the novel tells the story of Gentileschi's life and career in Renaissance Italy. Publicly humiliated and scorned in Rome after her participation as defendant in a rape trial in which the accused is her painting teacher (and father's friend) Agostino Tassi, Artemisia accepts a hastily arranged marriage at the age of 18 to Pietro Stiatessi, an artist in Florence. Her marriage, while not a love match, proves at first to be affectionate, and the arrival of a daughter, Palmira, strengthens the bond with her husband. But rifts soon develop as Artemisia begins to have some success: she wins the patronage of the Medicis and is the first woman to be elected to the Accademia dell'Arte before her husband. Studio and home become the battlefields of Artemisia's life, and Vreeland chronicles 20 years of the painter's struggles while raising her daughter alone. Details and visuals abound in the book; readers who loved the painterly descriptions of Girl will be spellbound in particular by the scenes in which Artemisia is shown at work. While some threads in the story are frustratingly dropped and the narrative concludes before the end of Artemisia's life, the underlying themes of familial and artistic reconciliation are satisfyingly developed. Forthright and imaginative, Vreeland's deft recreation ably showcases art and life.
Publishers Weekly


Following her best-selling Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Vreeland tells of Artemisia Gentileschi, a 16th-century painter and the first woman admitted to the Accademia dell' Arte in Florence. The book begins with Artemisia's public humiliation in a papal court after she accuses her father's friend and her painting teacher, Agostino Tassi, of rape. Her father, Orazio, to make up for his lack of support during the trial, arranges for her to marry Pietro Stiatessi, a painter from Florence. Happy at first, the couple have a daughter, but as Artemisia's painting gains recognition and eclipses that of her husband's, the marriage falters. Forced to support herself and her daughter, Artemisia travels to Genoa, Rome, and Naples to find work and advance her career, maintaining her steadfast devotion to art while trying to be a good mother. Vreeland skillfully captures the detail of the paintings and of Artemisia's joy in creating beauty. Few writers can convey the visual arts as vividly. —Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo.
Library Journal


Vreeland's popular novel The Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999) traced a Vermeer painting through its various owners, and her follow-up is also a moving celebration of the power of art.... The Passion of Artemisia offers a vivid portrait of a complex female artist who doggedly pursues her passion despite seemingly overwhelming obstacles. This accomplished novel should appeal particularly to those who enjoyed the author's previous book. —Kristine Huntley
Booklist


After her brilliant Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999), Vreeland shows a deep knowledge of art once more but also veers toward message and melodrama.
Kirkus Reviews




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