Angelica Kauffman was a brilliant pioneer who developed works of art like that of other great women artists but did it in the midst of the mainstream British art world. She was multilingual and cultured and has traveled much since she was younger. She was well-connected, well-respected, and dearly loved by some of the most famous artists of her day and was good friends with both Joshua Reynolds and Johann Wolfgang Goethe. She was thus one of just two women legally signing the deed establishing the London-based Royal Academy. She was able to successfully sidestep the sexual innuendo and damaging mockery that habitually women trying to make it as artists at this time.
Although Kauffman was generally rebellious and independent, favoring an innovative rather than imitation-based approach to creating art, she remained astute and cautious to keep taking convention into mind as the means to preserve an excellent reputation and ensure the smooth advancement of her profession. Although she is a typical Neoclassical artist, she has tended to reflect on her work throughout her career and to keep producing self-portraits alongside famous people's portraits and big historical canvases. Her friend, the famous painter Antonio Canova, who arranged her funeral and created her tomb, paid tribute to her in death. She was married to the Venetian artist Antonio Zucchi.
Maria Anna Angelika Catharina Kauffmann, popularly known as Angelica Kauffman, was born in Switzerland on October 30, 1741. Her parents were Cleophea, née Luz, a member of a noble family, and painter Johann Josef Kauffman. To create her character, Kauffman would live in both of her parents' worlds and take some inspiration from them. As a result, she matured into a working artist who also served as a beautiful and well-cultured hostess in the highest reaches of European society. Depending on where her father was employed, Kauffman spent most of her youth switching between living near Lake Como and in the Swiss region of Morbegno, Graubünden. When Angelica was sixteen years old, Johann left Switzerland with his family in 1755 to search for a wider clientele in Austria. This initial nomadism and devotion to traveling for the sake of art established Kauffman's career as an "international star."
The young girl received a significantly extensive and richer education than most girls of the day since Kauffman's parents were aware of their daughter's strengths and capabilities from an early age. She spoke many languages, including German, Italian, English, and French, just like her mother. She also learned cello proficiency and maintained a powerful, crystal-clear singing voice. In his history of Kauffman, author De Rossi tells the tale of how the young Kauffman decided to pursue painting instead of music. Given that she had the skills to get a job in both industries and enjoyed them, the artist's father had taken her to a local priest to help her make this tough choice. The priest suggested that although more challenging, painting would eventually be a more fulfilling career because performance would leave little time for religious devotion as a young Catholic woman.
A typical eighteenth-century woman was not expected to ponder about or choose for herself whatever professional field to pursue, irrespective of whether De Rossi's narrative was anecdotal or real; yet, it provides proof that Kauffman was extremely avant-garde. It was unwarranted for the artist's father to worry that his daughter would not have a regular job because, at that time, artists were always paid on the contract.
Johann Kauffman played an essential role in his daughter's primary education. Father and daughter migrated to her father's homeland in Schwarzenberg, Austria when Cleophea passed away in 1757. A remarkable and fascinating chance for a young girl, Kauffman worked alongside her father to complete a fresco painting of the Twelve Apostles for a parish church in Schwarzenberg. Together, the two continued to work on commissions until Angelica Kauffman turned 20 and took over as the family's higher earner.
Johann engaged himself entirely in Kauffman's training in the years that followed the loss of his wife, and the years between 1762 and 1764 were critical in this regard. The father-daughter personally visited Naples, Rome, Milan, Florence, and other Italian cities, spending hours in art museums duplicating Old Master works, including Raphael's, and from plaster molds. In addition to expanding her expertise in Renaissance and 17th-century art, Kauffman created etchings, drawings, and paintings that permitted her to hone her drawing skills. Kauffman had unlimited access to what is generally a male-only art world thanks to the connections and resources her father had already established.
Kauffman demonstrated such exceptional ability when still young and practically just starting her career that by 1762, she had already been awarded a certificate from the Florence-based Accademia del Designo and was an honorary member of the Accademia Clementina di Bologna. Later, she was also a Rome's Academia di San Luca member. With several letters of reference under her belt, Kauffman was now accepted into the royal courts of Florence and Parma, where she was hired to paint both historical portraits and history.
After her second marriage, Kauffman moved back to Italy and resettled in Rome in 1782 with Zucchi. Despite enjoying her 15 years in Britain, Kauffman thought that if she moved to Europe, she would be able to establish a strong clientele and get regular commissions because history painting was viewed in a higher regard there. She was regarded as "one of the most learned women in Europe," and her studio and firm rapidly gained fame, much like in London. Kauffman joined the inauguration sessions of the Roman poets' club, the Academy of Arcadians, in 1786. She became friends with German authors Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Johann Gottfried von Herder at the Academy. The former gushed over her "immense skill" and said of his painting colleague, "she is wonderfully modest and sensitive to all that is genuine and lovely." She also produced A Scene in Arcady in 1790, inspired by a poem by her friend George Keate. She communicated individually with numerous poets and writers, including the eminent Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Keate.
Until the early 1800s, Kauffman kept up his paintings and social things. Another close friend who regularly visited her Rome home was the artist Antonia Canova. Meanwhile, Kauffman continued to become well-known in England. Publishers and printmakers took a keen interest in Kauffman's work, in particular the line engraving William Wynne Ryland who broadly disseminated and replicated her pictures. The artist's paintings influenced the stipple engraving style, in which etched or engraved dots were utilized to develop tone. In London's most affluent locations, Kauffman's paintings were frequently spotted hanging in copies.
On November 5, 1807, Kauffman passed away. Her burial was arranged by her friend, the well-known sculptor Canova, and was recognized as the best and most lavishly organized for a painter passing in Rome since the death of Raphael. Along with other prominent ecclesiastics and virtuosi, the somber procession included the entire Accademia di San Luca. Two of her artworks were taken in the parade as a sign of profound respect. It's interesting to note that Kauffman lived in Rome for her crucial early training and her last professional years.
Art by Angelica Kauffman
Self Portrait Aged Thirteen 1753
Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (1723-1792)
Portrait of a Lady 1775
Henrietta Laura Pulteney 1777
Zeuxis Selecting Models for His Painting of Helen of Troy 1780-82
Study of a Standing Woman 1792-96
Self-portrait of the Artist hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting 1794