Title: The Girls of the Oil, painters and sculptors before 1789
Author: Isabel del Rio
Year of publication: 2010
Review by Isadora Sartosa
“The Girls of Oil” is a book about women artists who lived before the French Revolution. About 200 names are cited although the author focuses on the most significant artists:
Among the medieval artists: the Spanish Teresa Dieç, the sculptor Sabine de Pierrefonds and Catharina van Hemessen. In the Renaissance, Sofonisba Anguissola (painter of the king Felipe II), Lavinia Fontana and Marietta Robusti. In the Baroque period: Artemisia Gentileschi and Elisabetta Sirani. Special study deserves the Rococo painter, Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun (painter of Mary Antoinette of France), and Adelaide Labille-Guiard … the book is an essay but is not heavy, just the opposite, very enjoyable.
Isabel del Rio is professor of History and Art, but she is also a writer. We have read her articles in Yareah magazine ( http://www.yareah.com ), or her novel “Ariza” (ed. Alcalá), about an old railway line and the people which built it. This work of author is now evident in The Girls of the Oil, because instead of being a tedious manual, it is ironic and funny and, as the writer Martin Cid says in the foreword:
“Scenes and documents which discover that time, even more authentic and lively, always biting, which has been the big lie of the most beautiful of lies: Art. “
According to Isabel del Rio: these old ladies ‘did not clean the dust from the doorknob while they drooled’, as we sometimes want to believe. ‘Our world is not better than others’, continues the author, and it is a political issue to try to convince of the opposite. They are manipulations based on data hiding. “Do not cut off our roots”, she has said in articles that appeared in the press. “The French Revolution only matched women to the guillotine’.
To me the book I was interesting and passionate. Women artists of the past are studied and many of them were once admired by painters very well known (Velazquez bought a canvas of Artemisia Gentileschi; Lord Byron payed a portrait of Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and Van Dyck and Rubens revered Sofonisba Anguissola ).
Isabel del Rio has a blog about the book where information is gathered:
http://laschicasdeloleo.wordpress.com (soon in English).
Video with paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi and other Baroque artists: