Many readers have probably heard of Artemisia Gentileschi; her work and life are usually taught in intro art history classes and, sometimes, intro women's studies classes. The daughter of the well-known-in-his-day Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia was born in 1593 (d. 1652/53) and worked as an artist during the Baroque period, when very few women were painters. Her work is especially notable because she painted historical and allegorical subjects, instead of just dedicating herself to the still-life and portrait work traditionally deemed appropriate for the 'fairer sex.'
She began painting as a teenager (she completed Susanna and the Elders , which I've posted below, when she was 17). Her life-story is pretty rocky: she was raped by her tutor, the painter Agostino Tassi, and subjected to an extensive and very public trial (during which she was tortured while being questioned in order to "verify" her accusations). A compelling (if questionably accurate) film was made about Artemisia's life in 1997; it's called, simply, Artemisia .
For more information, check out Mary D. Garrad's book Artemisia Gentileschi.
Susanna and the Elders , 1610
Judith Slaying Holofernes , c. 1612-13
Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes , c. 1625
Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting , c. 1630
A version of this post originally appeared here.