Artemisia Gentileschi is a criminally-underappreciated artist and fascinating historical figure. Joy McCullough uses her story--and those of the Biblical women she captured in her paintings--as a jumping-off point to explore the ways society treats women and the ways women chafe at some of those treatments. Barely a line of this beautiful prose went by without me wanting to read it at someone. Best to settle for as many as possible reading the whole book and all the timeless difficult truths within.
Artemisia Gentileschi is a criminally-underappreciated artist and fascinating historical figure. Joy McCullough uses her story--and those of the Biblical women she captured in her paintings--as a jumping-off point to explore the ways society treats women and the ways women chafe at some of those treatments. Barely a line of this beautiful prose went by without me wanting to read it at someone. Best to settle for as many as possible reading the whole book and all the timeless difficult truths within. - Sarah's Favorite 5 Reads in 2018
“Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the greatest painters of her generation, but she also lived in 17th-century Italy, where women had no power and little recourse when wronged. When one of her father's friends assaults her, Artemisia must decide whether to keep the secret or force him to face justice, no matter the cost she'll have to pay. Written in gorgeous verse, this book is heartbreaking, brilliant, and tragically relevant today. Read this book even if you don't care about art history. Read this book even if you don't usually like verse novels or historical fiction. Just read this book. It will haunt you.”
— Lillian Tschudi-Campbell, The Red Balloon Bookshop, Saint Paul, MN
"Haunting ... teems with raw emotion, and McCullough deftly captures the experience of learning to behave in a male-driven society and then breaking outside of it."—The New Yorker
"I will be haunted and empowered by Artemisia Gentileschi's story for the rest of my life."—Amanda Lovelace, bestselling author of the princess saves herself in this one
A William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist 2018 National Book Award Longlist
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.
Joy McCullough's bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia's heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia's most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman's timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.
I will show you what a woman can do.
★"A captivating and impressive."—Booklist, starred review ★"Belongs on every YA shelf."—SLJ, starred review ★"Haunting."—Publishers Weekly, starred review ★"Luminous."—Shelf Awareness, starred review
About the Author
Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her family. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Her debut novel, Blood Water Paint, was longlisted for National Book Award and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award.
"Haunting ... [Blood Water Paint] does not read like historical fiction. It teems with raw emotion, and McCullough deftly captures the experience of learning to behave in a male-driven society and then breaking outside of it."—The New Yorker
"An impassioned, lushly described account of a young woman who refuses to dwell in secret shame. Blood Water Paint fits smoothly into the current conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement."—Chicago Tribune
"Coming out of the novel, I knew I would be haunted and empowered by Artemisia’s story for the rest of my life."—Amanda Lovelace, bestselling author of the princess saves herself in this one ★"McCullough has managed to vividly capture a singularly brave, resilient feminist who became an icon during a time when women had almost no agency. Her story and the stunning verse through which it is told will resonate just as strongly with readers today. A captivating and impressive debut about a timeless heroine." —Booklist, starred review
★"McCullough’s beautifully crafted text will inspire upper-middle/high school readers to research the true story upon which this powerful piece of historical fiction is based. The poetry is clear and revelatory, exploring Artemisia’s passion for both art and life. The expression of her intense feelings is gripping and her complexity of character make her a force to be reckoned with, both in her times and in ours."—SLJ, starred review
★"A haunting, stirring depiction of an unforgettable woman, Artemisia's story will resonate deeply with readers today and beyond."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
★"Luminous."—Shelf Awareness, starred review
"A visceral reminder that women have suffered and stood strong throughout time.”—Mindy McGinnis, award-winning author of The Female of the Species.
"Both a grave reminder of how little has changed and a hopeful testament to how much more we might achieve, McCullough's debut is a must read."—Gae Polisner, author of The Memory of Things
"Blood Water Paint is a deftly layered portrait, at once intimate and universal."—Melanie Crowder, author of Audacity
"McCullough's stunning, immersive debut tells a timely story that's sure to stay with you long after you finish."—Buzzfeed
"Timeless and, alas, all too timely."—Kirkus
"[W]ill resonate with modern feminists."—BookPage
“McCullough’s debut novel is one of a kind. ... [A] truly inspiring and impactful story."—Romatic Times
"Filled with hope and an important message that women’s voices cannot be silenced."—Book Riot
"For lovers of writers like Laurie Halse Anderson and An Na."—Bustle
“A stunning portrait.” –Bitch
“Can be inhaled in a day.” –Paste
“Deeply moving…”—Brit & Co
"This intensely passionate and powerful exploration of women’s lives, stories, truths, and power is a masterpiece." —Teen Librarian Toolbox Amelia Bloomer Top Ten Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Finalist Booklist Editor's Choice Top of the List Boston Globe Best Books Book Page Best of the Year Bustle Best of the Year Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List Globe and Mail 100: Favourite Books of the Year National Book Award Longlist Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2019 Book Award A Publishers Weekly Flying Start School Library Journal Best of the Year Shelf Awareness Best Children's & Teen Books of the Year Texas Tayshas Reading List YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults YALSA Teen's Top Ten Nominee YALSA William C. Morris Award Finalist