Baroque masterpiece to go on show next to pupils' GCSE artwork

A baroque period masterpiece bought by the National Gallery for £3.6m last year is to go on display alongside the GCSE artwork of probably apprehensive schoolgirls.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1615–17) will begin a four-day visit to Sacred Heart Catholic high school in Newcastle upon Tyne on Tuesday.

It is part of a “grand tour” of unusual and unexpected places, which has included Glasgow Women’s Library and a GP surgery in Pocklington, east Yorkshire.

Gentileschi is the most famous female painter of the 17th century and is considered one of the most accomplished painters among the followers of Caravaggio. Even though she worked for a short time in England, she was not represented in any UK collection until the National Gallery acquisition.

The painting will go on display at Sacred Heart, a specialist performing arts school, alongside pupils’ GCSE artwork and will be the focus of a number of workshops.

Anita Bath, the headteacher at Sacred Heart, said it was an apt location given the school was “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,” she said.

The tour has had a positive reception. The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones said the gallery was “returning a bit of art to the living world where it belongs”.

Gabriele Finaldi, the director of the National Gallery, said: “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.”

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One of those will be in east London when it becomes a stop on the E17 Art Trail as part of Waltham Forest’s London borough of culture 2019 activities. In 2020, the painting will be a star of the National Gallery’s first UK Gentileschi show, bringing together about 35 of her works.



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