Blood Water Paint is a novel in verse about 17th Century painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Painting in Rome in the 1600s was a man’s game (really, pretty much everything in Rome and the surrounding areas in the 1600s was a man’s game), but Artemisia didn’t care. After her mother died when she was 12 she decided to work with her painter father, rather than become a nun. Artemisia’s work is still recognized as some of the most accomplished of her generation. But in between her mother dying and her becoming a great painter of her own accord, Artemisia was raped by a man hired to be her teacher. Instead of remaining silent Artemisia decides to prosecute her attacker. With very few legal and public legs to stand on Artemisia remains steadfast in her pursuit of justice (what little justice a woman of that time can expect at least).
Beautifully told, with the biblical stories of Susanna and Judith (subjects of Artemsia’s more famous works) woven into her tale. Both of these woman were able to persevere and find strength in worlds where they were supposed to be helpless. As Artemisia works to heal from her rape and stand strong in the strength of rumors and questioning they lend her strength and comfort.
McCullough captures the feelings of being trapped in a world that doesn’t respect an entire gender as a full person. A book that occasionally requires a break back to the less suffocating (but not exactly perfect) 21st century, but continues to pull you back to make sure Artemisia gets her justice.