I stumbled across this book on one of my Goodreads dives a few months ago. I finally checked it out from my library and holy cow, I am so glad I did. I actually initially checked it out in audiobook format but I didn’t like the narration, so I turned that in and waited for the book format so I could really enjoy it. I’m so glad I did that because I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it through such an amazing story otherwise.
Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.
She chose paint.
By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.
He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.
I will show you
what a woman can do.
I’ve never tried to review a book in verse before, especially not one as powerful as Blood Water Paint. Because there really is no other way to describe it. I’ve never really been able to connect with poetry but Artemisia’s heartbreaking yet admirable story was impossible to not connect with.
Artemisia Gentileschi was a painter during the Baroque period in Rome. Joy McCullough seems to remain as faithful to Artemisia’s true history as possible, and she cites Artemisia Gentileschi (Princeton University Press) by Mary D. Garrard as a resource, particularly for the trial. Blood Water Paint begins with Artemisia painting to forget her trapped life with her father. As the story continues we learn more about her father’s abuse/neglect, the indifference from her brothers and maid, the lack of respect Artemisia receives for her paintings, and the loneliness Artemisia feels without her mother or another woman who understands her.
We also get to read snippets of the stories Artemisia’s mother used to tell her about Susanna and Judith, two strong women remaining faithful to their strengths and truths despite what the world sees them as. We also get to see the way others, particularly men, view these women and change their stories to suit their perspectives.
I love how McCullough incorporates these women’s stories into Artemisia’s, mirroring her conflicts and guiding her through them. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not usually one to connect with poetry. But I felt every bit of Artemisia’s frustration, fear, and courage in the midst of her day-to-day life and her rape trial. There is so much pain and injustice in this short book, but Artemisia, Judith, and Susanna show so much strength and courage that such ugly situations are turned into beautiful tales of amazing women.
I would highly recommend this book, even if you’re like me and tend to stay away from poetry.