Wednesday, January 18, 2017

1741-1807: Angelica Kauffman, Swiss-Austrian

Self-portrait, 1770-1775
National Portrait Gallery, London
Angelica Kauffman was a Swiss-born Austrian Neoclassical painter who made her career in London and Rome. Beautiful, refined, and multi-lingual, Angelica was a citizen of the world.

Background: Angelica was born in Switzerland to an Austrian family, and mostly raised in Austria. She was the only child of J. J. Kauffman, a skillful muralist, but not highly successful. Her mother died in 1757 when Angelica was 16.

Training: Angelica was a child prodigy who showed talent in both music and art. Her mother taught her several languages as well.

She was trained in art by her father, Joseph Johann Kauffmann. Her father paved the way for her career.

Career: After Angelica's mother died, Joseph took Angelica with him to Italy in search of work. She assisted him by painting in the backgrounds of his works, but she also received her own commissions. Her training was enhanced by meeting distinguished Neoclassical artists on her travels; she also had the opportunity to see and copy many masterpieces.

During her 3-year stay in Italy, Angelica made her reputation as a painter of portraits. She also excelled at history paintings, which were considered the most prestigious artistic category, and she was elected to Rome's art academy.

At the age of 24, Angelica went to London, as the invitation of the wife of the British ambassador to Florence. She soon made friends with Joshua Reynolds, a major portrait artist in the English art world, who helped to promote her career. Angelica's father joined her in England, and she quickly became a fashionable portrait artist.

In 1768, when she was 27, Angelica became a founding member of the Royal Academy of Art, one of two women in the group. This was not a perfunctory honor. Angelica was familiar with the art scene on the continent and brought the group both knowledge and prestige. She exhibited regularly at the Academy for the next 16 years.

In 1781, when Angelica was 40, she moved to Rome, where she continued her success as a portrait artist and international celebrity. She continued to contribute to the Royal Academy shows until 1797.


Papirius Pratextatus Entreated by His Mother, 1760s
Denver / Jan's photo, 2010
Portrait of John Simpson, 1777

Cordelia Crying Out for Help, 1783
San Diego, Jan's Photo

This is group composition is in the typical Neoclassical style.

Cornelia Africana, 1785

Portrait of Countess A S Protasova with Her Nieces, 1788

Self-portrait, 1797

Private life:

In London in 1767, Angelica married a man named Frederick de Horn. He claimed to be the illegitimate son of a count. The couple lived apart and it is speculated that the marriage was unconsummated because he was impotent. When Angelica tried to get out of the marriage, she found out he was already married and a long-term scam artist. It was necessary for her and her father to pay him off to get ride of him. The marriage was dissolved in 1768.

After her first husband died in 1781, Angelica married a Venetian artist named Antonio Zucchi. Angelica and Antonio settled in Rome, where she continued her career.

She died in 1807 and was honored by a well-attended funeral.