Angelica Kaufman, Self-portrait

Angelica Kaufman is an academic artist who admired all of Europe

Angelica Kaufman, Self-portrait

Maria Anna Angelica Kaufman was an English and Italian neoclassical artist who was considered one of the most educated and talented women in 18th century Europe. The creativity of Angelica Kaufman was so highly valued that she was included among the founders of the Royal Academy in London. The paintings of this artist are excellent examples of historical painting and portrait art.

Angelica Kaufman, Rinaldo and Armida
Rinaldo and Armida

Biography of Angelica Kaufman

Angelica Kaufman was born on October 30, 1741 in the Swiss city of Chur, but her childhood was spent in Austria. The girl was the only daughter of an Austrian monumental painter.

From an early age, she showed outstanding abilities: she mastered several foreign languages ​​(English, French, Italian and German), had an excellent singing voice and drew brilliantly. Already at the age of 12, she painted to order portraits of representatives of the nobility and clergy. When the time came to make a choice between music and painting, my father insisted on the latter, since the singer’s career was then considered not quite decent for a girl.

Angelica Kaufman, Portrait of Philip Tisdel with his wife and other family members
Portrait of Philip Tisdel with his wife and other family members

Angelica Kaufman continued to improve her artistic skills in Italy, where she went with her father after the death of her mother in 1754. She quickly became famous and became a well-known woman, including meeting the British ambassador and his wife. At their invitation, the girl and her father went to London and lived in the UK for the next 15 years. The beautiful and talented artist was admired by Joshua Reynolds, with whom she became close friends. Kaufman became one of two female founders of the Royal Academy. The second is Mary Moser.

Angelica Kaufman, Portrait of Louise Henrietta Campbell, later Lady Scarlet, as the Muse of Literature
Portrait of Louise Henrietta Campbell, later Lady Scarlet, as the Muse of Literature

One circumstance darkened the prosperous life in Britain

It was an extremely unsuccessful marriage. Among her many admirers, Angelica preferred the secular lion Earl Horn, who bought her paintings and was generous with compliments. After her marriage in 1767, she found out that she was the victim of a marriage swindler with many names. Soon their marriage was invalidated, but after the scandal, the artist severely limited her social circle.

She was also saddened by the fact that critically-praised mythological plots and allegories received a cool welcome from the public, who preferred the portraits and landscapes of Thomas Gainsborough. As a result, in 1781, Kaufman married the Venetian artist Antonio Zucchi and left for Rome, where she opened a prestigious studio. By that time, she was already a member of the Florentine Academy of Fine Arts.

Angelica Kaufman, Portrait of a Woman, 1795
Portrait of a Woman, 1795

In the salon of Angelica Kaufman, the intellectual elite of different countries met.

The artist was friends with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and many other cultural figures of the 18th century. Its customers were the Russian Emperor Paul I, the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, the monarchs of Naples and Poland, Pope Pius VI and other dignitaries of Europe and Russia. The Russian poet Derzhavin even wrote an ode “To Angelica Kaufman”, so high was her popularity.

The artist died on November 5, 1807, and the entire Academy of St. Luke took part in the procession of her magnificent funeral. Currently, the works of this extraordinary woman are kept in the Hermitage, the British Tate Gallery and other best museums in different countries. The museum of Angelica Kaufmann is open in Austria, and on Venus there is a crater named after her.

Portrait of a woman traditionally called Lady Hervey
Portrait of a woman traditionally called Lady Hervey
The most famous paintings by Angelica Kaufman

Angelica Kaufman’s paintings are usually based on mythological, historical, biblical and literary subjects. They belong to historical painting, which in academic art was considered the most sublime and important. Women of the 18th century rarely showed themselves in this genre, since it required a deep knowledge of literary sources, art theory and anatomy. Here are some of the artist’s most famous works:

  1. “Portrait of Johann Joachim Winckelmann” (1764). This portrait made the 22-year-old artist famous. It depicts a famous historian and archaeologist who was a friend of Kaufman and spoke of her as an exceptional person.
  2. Young Goethe (1787). The artist often talked with Goethe and illustrated his play “Iphigenia in Taurida”, and he wrote about Kaufman in his book “Towards the theory of color.” But the poet did not approve of his own portrait, considering the image embellished.
  3. “Venus awakens love for Paris in Helen” (1790). This painting based on the Iliad was commissioned by Prince Yusupov, in whose family it was kept until the October Revolution. Now it is included in the collection of the Hermitage.
  4. “Self-portrait between painting and music” (1794). The artist never forgot that for the sake of a career in painting, she had to sacrifice her musical gift. This is confirmed by a late self-portrait with allegories of two types of art.
A man named Sir Robert Hurvey
A man named Sir Robert Hurvey
Baron Gustav Adolf Reuterholm
Baron Gustav Adolf Reuterholm
Children with flowers and a bird's nest
Children with flowers and a bird’s nest
Four children with a basket of fruits
Four children with a basket of fruits
Portrait of a woman dressed as a virgin vestal
Portrait of a woman dressed as a virgin vestal