Artemisia Gentileschi is in the news. It's hardly as though her self-portrait as St Catherine sold for peanuts, but the relatively small sum compared to, for example, Caravaggio's work, is some indication of the relative lack of prominence of female artists. During one of those conversations on Saturday night, I tried to introduce Gentileschi into an exchange about painters. My interlocutor, who might generously be described as well-oiled at the time we had this chat, maintained that Van Gogh was a crap painter, but that was just her opinion and therefore didn't speak on anything objective. Some time later, it might be added, she was holding forth on the subject of a medium who is capable of accurately predicting the future of her family. I largely let this bit about the medium slide, but I did engage on the subject of painters. Artemisia Gentileschi is, for me, something of a riff. She's very easy to set off on in conversation, because a very few people have heard of her, her story is very interesting and dreadful, and not many people have seen the paintings. Now, of course, you can summon Judith and Holofernes with the magic of the internet, and compare it directly to Caravaggio's. Some folk might even look at the paintings. Thoroughly recommended both by me and by Will Gompertz...
Mrs. Bibby : Our lord and master, having grudgingly conceded that art may have its uses, I gather, I'm supossed, to give your Oxford and Cambridge boys a smattering of art history.
Hector : Not my bag, Hazel. Irwin's your man.
Tom Irwin : It's really just the icing on the cake.
Mrs. Bibby : Is art ever anything else?
On a rather different note, here's a young(ish) person in the public eye, talking about her mental health. Presumably that discussion and the linked article relate to Mental Health Awareness Week. At the risk of sounding patronising, well done, Maisie, it is important that people in the public eye speak out about their mental health, and it is hopeful that someone who might be a role model is able to express herself in this way. The coincidence that the second anniversary of the suicide of Chris Cornell (18th May 2017) lies within that week is fitting. As I have tried to write previously, he suffered from depression, and wrote not so much about the act of suicide but about the contemplation of what it might mean to remove himself from life. These are his words:
"No one really knows what run-of-the-mill depression is. You'll think somebody has run-of-the-mill depression, and then the next thing you know, they're hanging from a rope. It's hard to tell the difference. But I do feel that depression can be useful. Sometimes it's just chemical. It doesn't seem to come from anywhere. And whenever I've been in any kind of depression, I've over the years tried to not only imagine what it feels like to not be there, but try to remind myself that I could just wake up the next day and it could be gone because that happens, and not to worry about it. And at the same time, when I'm feeling great, I remember the depression and think about the differences in what I'm feeling and why I would feel that way, and not be reactionary one way or the other. You just have to realize that these are patterns of life and you just go through them."
It is utterly heartbreaking that, having been able to say those words, nearly twenty years later he took his own life. So, here he is at his rawest, his most honest, his best, what we should remember him for, not for his suicide but for his life:
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought