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Artemisia Visits … Sacred Heart Catholic High School

Issued May 2019

After immensely successful visits to Scotland and a GP Surgery in East Yorkshire, the National Gallery’s Artemisia Gentileschi self portrait is continuing her journey around the UK by visiting Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The rare self portrait by the celebrated artist of the Italian Baroque – Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1615–17) – is on display from Tuesday 14 May (until Friday 17 May).

Artemisia’s painting will go on display in the auditorium of the girls’ school alongside the pupils’ GCSE art exhibition. The painting will be the focus of a number of workshops for students from Sacred Heart and neighbouring schools. There will also be a careers event for Year 10 and 12 students, with National Gallery staff offering insights about working in the arts.

There is an opportunity for the public to visit Artemisia on Tuesday 14 May at 5pm, when National Gallery curator Letizia Treves will give a talk. This event is free for anyone to attend, but tickets must be booked in advance here.

Anita Bath, Headmistress of Sacred Heart Catholic High School says,

“It feels apt to show Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria’ in a school founded by a similarly pioneering woman. Gentileschi and the founding Sisters of the Sacred Heart asserted their place in the world with confidence, enthusiasm and strength of character, and have inspired countless women to do the same. As a specialist Performing Arts School, the arts feature prominently in our curriculum and are crucial to enabling our students to find their voice and express their individuality. Using a range of media, students develop personal investigations that often explore issues of identity, and parallels can be drawn to Gentileschi’s portrait. The current practice displayed across Sacred Heart reflects the artist’s enduring influence and art's unique platform to express who we are, enabling us to cross frontiers.”

Through spring and summer 2019, Artemisia’s painting – acquired by the National Gallery, London in July 2018 – is undertaking a series of ‘visits’ to unusual and unexpected venues (not all of them galleries or museums) across the UK. The tour started at Glasgow Women’s Library (6–19 March) for International Women’s Day and continued at Pocklington Group Practice (29 April – 11 May).

Future visits will include East London, where Artemisia will be a stop on the E17 Art Trail as part of its Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019 celebrations.

Director of the National Gallery, Dr Gabriele Finaldi says,

“The National Gallery has never done a tour like this, taking a masterpiece to unexpected venues where it can be enjoyed by people who may not be able to see it in Trafalgar Square. The response in Glasgow and Pocklington was superb and we are looking forward to engaging with local communities in the next surprising venues."

Artemisia Gentileschi is considered one of the most accomplished painters among the followers of Caravaggio, whom she may have known personally through her father, Orazio. In an era when female artists were not easily accepted, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence and had a truly international clientele, including royalty.

Artemisia faced challenges in both her professional and personal life: she was raped by a fellow painter and was subjected to gruelling questioning and physical torture during the trial that ensued. Her biography has long overshadowed her artistic achievements, but today she is recognised as one of the most talented painters of her generation.


Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria shows a female figure turning towards the viewer. A halo is visible just above her head, indicating that she is a saint. Her left hand rests on the top of a broken spiked wheel; a symbol associated with Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian saint martyred in the early 4th century AD. Sentenced to death by the Emperor Maxentius, Catherine was bound to revolving wheels studded with iron spikes and nails. She escaped this instrument of torture through heavenly intervention, but was later beheaded. Of the sixty or so paintings attributed to Artemisia, many feature a strong female hero as their main protagonist. Artemisia’s paintings have often been read as autobiographical and there can be little doubt that her personal identity is closely intertwined with her artistic production.

The £3.6 million acquisition of 'Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria' was made possible thanks to the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, the National Gallery Trust, Art Fund (through the legacy of Sir Denis Mahon), Lord and Lady Sassoon, Lady Getty, and Hannah Rothschild CBE, and other donors including those who wish to remain anonymous. The conservation of the painting has been made possible with Art Fund support. It was unveiled at the National Gallery in December 2018.

Sacred Heart Catholic High, School, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 9YH – more at

The Klesch Collection is proud to sponsor 'Artemisia Visits' and support women artists

With additional support from:

Deborah Finkler and Allan Murray-Jones
Diane Apostolos-Cappadona Trust in honour of Stacia Apostolos

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Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1654 or later)
'Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria'
about 1615–17
Oil on canvas
71.5 x 71 cm
© The National Gallery, London


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