Kenwood House Celebrates Angelica Kauffman's Bicentenary

By Narelle Doe | 24 October 2007
circular painting of two seated women in long 18th century dresses

Angelica Kauffman, Self Portrait with Poetry. Courtesy English Heritage

English Heritage are celebrating the bicentenary of the death of prominent female artist Angelica Kauffman with a new In-focus Display, Angelica, at Kenwood House. The new exhibit will run until November 14 2007 and is free of charge.

Kenwood House already permanently houses five of Kauffman’s paintings but now visitors have the opportunity to view an additional five that are on loan to English Heritage along with a selection of prints that were in storage.

Angelica Kauffman (1741- 1807) was a Swiss-born artist whose talent, ambition and beauty propelled her into artistic prominence in 18th century Europe as well as the celebrity social circle.

Her legacy is impressive, breaking new ground for women in the arts by becoming one of only two female artists at that time to be accepted into the newly established Royal Academy.

When Kauffman arrived in London, aged 25 years old, she already had a reputation as a celebrated artist with a head for business as well as a beauty who inspired adoration from her clients.

painting showing a man in Roman armour with a kneeling woman next to him

Angelica Kauffman, Rinaldo and Armida. Courtesy English Heritage

Never far from controversy, Kauffman was often the subject of gossip with a disastrous first marriage and continuous rumours of amorous liaisons. Commissions for work by fashionable society did not falter however, and her career continued to flourish.

She has a strong association with Kenwood House through her second husband, Antonio Zucchi, who painted the decorative ceilings of the Entrance Hall and the Adam Library.

Angelica brings together works that reveal Kauffman’s ambitions as a serious painter of literary and classical subjects, focusing on Greek and Roman legends and scenes from literature depicting the themes of love, virtue and strength.

Kauffman successfully trod a fine line between being both a lady and a businesswoman ahead of her time, and the collection very aptly reflects her own experiences as a woman and artist in a male-dominated profession.

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