Oct 4, 2010

ARTIST OF THE MONTH Angelica Kauffmann


At the young age of 13 Angelica traveled through Austria and Italy with her father, painter Joseph Johann Kauffmann. She assisted him by painting in the backgrounds of his works. Her father, Johann Josef Kauffmann, was a poor man and second-rate painter, but evidently very successful in teaching his gifted daughter. Shortly after this she got her first commission.

She quickly acquired several languages, read constantly, and showed noticeable talents as a musician. However, her greatest progress was in painting. In 1754 her father took her to Milan. Later visits to Italy of long duration followed: in 1763 she visited Rome, returning again in 1764.

She went to England, where she enjoyed success as a fashionable portrait painter and decorator. She preferred history painting which was considered the highest artistic genre and reserved only for her male colleagues.
A protégée of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Kauffman was one of the original members of the Royal Academy.
She received commissions from the Royal courts in Naples, Russia and Austria. While often dismissed by traditional art history as a simple decorative or sentimental artist, however, she was successful enough to purchase her own home from earned commissions and live a comfortably stylish life.

She produced many portraits and decorative painting. Despite her inability to secure a formal artistic education or study the male nude, Kauffmann produced paintings which depicted classical mythology, history and allegory. of the founding members of the British Royal Academy in 1768.

From 1769 until 1782, she was an annual exhibitor, sending sometimes as many as seven pictures, generally classic or allegorical subjects. In 1773 she was appointed by the Academy with others to decorate St Paul's Cathedral, and it was she who, with Biagio Rebecca, painted the Academy's old lecture room at Somerset House.

It is likely that her popularity declined a little in consequence of an unfortunate marriage; but in 1781, after her first husband's death she married Antonio Zucchi, a Venetian artist. She lived in Italy, where she flourished in artistic and literary circles.

 She retired to Rome, where she lived for 25 years with much of her old prestige. In 1807 she died in Rome, being honored by an impressive funeral under the direction of Canova. The entire Academy of St Luke, with numerous ecclesiastics and virtuosi, followed her to her tomb in S. Andrea delle Fratte, and, as at the burial of Raphael, two of her best pictures were carried in procession.
Unfortunately her works have not retained their reputation. She had a certain gift of elegance, and substantial skill in composition. But her figures lacked variety and expression. Her men are masculine women. As of 1911, rooms decorated by her brush were still to be seen in various quarters. At Hampton Court was a portrait of the duchess of Brunswick; in the National Portrait Gallery, a self-portrait. There were other pictures by her at Paris, at Dresden, in the Hermitage at St Petersburg, and in the Alte Pinakothek at Munich. The Munich example was another portrait of her; and there was a third in the Uffizi at Florence. A few of her works in private collections were exhibited among the Old Masters at Burlington House.

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