Angelica Kauffman: Celebrity artist

Self-portrait by Angelica Kauffman at Saltram, Devon. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and transferred to the National Trust in 1957. ©NTPL/John Hammond

I previously featured the Kauffman portrait that we manage to re-acquire for Oxburgh Hall, but in other National Trust properties we also have a few works by this artist, which illustrate her remarkable career.

Angelica Kauffman, The Artist Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting, 1791 or 1794, at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire. Acquired with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2002. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Angelica Kauffman was born in Switzerland in 1741, and as she grew up she showed talent for both music and art. A priest advised her that art would be more rewarding in the long term. Kauffman later dramatised this ‘judgement of Hercules’ decision in an image of herself hesitating between the blandishments of Music and the rocky road of Painting.

Portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds by Kauffman, 1767, at Saltram, Devon. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and transferred to the National Trust in 1957. ©NTPL/Rob Matheson

Kauffman’s father took her to Italy where she studied drawing and painting and visited important collections. She was fluent in several languages and was fêted as a female prodigy. In 1766 Lady Wentworth, the wife of the British ambassador to Venice, took her to London, where she befriended Joshua Reynolds who enthusiastically promoted her career.

Venus Directing Aeneas and Achates to Carthage, by Angelica Kauffman. Exhbited at the Royal Academy in 1769. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and transferred to the National Trust in 1957. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Kauffman was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy. She was keen to paint historical, literary and mythological subjects, which were seen as more prestigious than portraits. 

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Foster by Angelica Kauffman, 1785, at Ickworth, Suffolk. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

Portraits were an important source of income for Kauffman, however. After a brief and disastrous marriage to a conman she married the Venetian painter Antonio Pietro Zucchi in 1781. She ended her life in Rome, where people like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Antonio Canova sought her out.

These paintings can be seen at:

6 Responses to “Angelica Kauffman: Celebrity artist”

  1. littleaugury Says:

    The influence of Reynolds is definite, and the portrait of him is stellar. It captures the intimacy of a friendship. Reynolds looks a bit tired, rumpled, relaxed (could Casual have been a word in use during this period?doubtful-) but , nonetheless,pleased to be sitting for a friend. His many self portraits don’t give us this glimpse into what his personality might have been like. pgt

  2. Hels Says:

    Kauffman was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy. This is amazing. The Royal Academy, arriving in a very sexist era, was as sexist as any other organisation. Angelica must have blown them away. Or she might have got in under a male’s name.

    She was keen to paint historical, literary and mythological subjects, which were seen as more prestigious than portraits. I agree that was so, but what a shame – she was such a superb portraitist. Even a mythological painting like Venus Directing Aeneas and Achates to Carthage appears to be an 18th century portrait in a British landscape.

    What a woman!

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Gaye, yes one senses a real rapport between painter and sitter in the Reynolds portrait. Apparently it was considered acceptable for artists to be portrayed more informally, in the studio, as the status of the fine arts was becoming more elevated (and Reynolds did much to promote that). Even so Reynolds’s hair is particularly eloquent here.

    According to the Dictionary of National Biography there is supposed to be a portrait of Kauffman by Reynolds at Althrop, Northamptonshire, but I have read somewhere else that it was sold in 1982, so I am not sure where it is at the moment.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Hels, yes she was a female star in a male world. According to the DNB, only two of the thirty-six founding members of the RA were women – Kauffman and Mary Moser.

    Yes our time loves portraits, as we are obsessed with personality and psychology. But in the late eighteenth century, when painters were still striving to be seen as respectable, history painting was a suitably serious and learned genre.

  5. Eva Says:

    Good evening!

    I am still writing an essay about Angelica Kauffmann’s portrait of Lady Elisabeth Foster. Could you help me to find any descriptions or essays of this work?

    Thanks!

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Eva, Thank you for your message. I will find out who has the most information about this picture and get back to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 777 other followers

%d bloggers like this: