Tag Archives: 18th century paintings

#FineArtFriday: Self-portrait Hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting by Angelica Kauffmann 1791

Self-portrait of the Artist hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting by Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 ¿ Rome 1807)

Artist: Angelica Kauffmann  (1741–1807)

Title: Self-portrait Hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting

Date: 1791

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 147 cm (57.8 in); Width: 216 cm (85 in)

Collection: The St Oswald Collection, Nostell Priory. (The National Trust)

What I love about this painting:

Balanced, powerful colors and the soft-brushed, multi-layered style of English portraitists Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough characterize all of Angelica Kauffman’s work. We see sharp clarity and attention to the smallest detail in the setting and the scene. Yet, the faces have a mystical, dreamlike quality.

This painting shows the struggle many artists suffer from, trying to decide which muse to follow. Kauffmann loved music and painting in equal measure. She had a natural soprano of operatic quality, yet she had the kind of artistic talent for painting that rarely comes along.

Art won out. I’m glad because, in those days before recordings, music was ephemeral. It was over when the last bow was taken, and the curtain closed. Only the lucky few in the opera house experienced it.

Artists like Kauffmann, who leave us their great works, bring enjoyment to thousands of people over the course of centuries.

Angelica Kauffmann was a beautiful, extraordinarily talented and well-educated woman in an era when talented, educated women were considered an annoyance. Slut-shaming isn’t a new method of trying to keep a woman down, although social media has made it into a handy weapon. The practice has been around for as long as humans have walked the earth.

Kauffmann’s talent and success, along with her friendship with Sir Joshua Reynolds, so annoyed fellow artist Nathaniel Hone that he went to great lengths to publicly humiliate both her and Reynolds in his painting, The Conjurer.

Hone’s attempt to put her in her place backfired, as rather than cowering in shame, Kauffmann held her head up and fought back, forcing him to remove the nude he’d painted (implying she’d posed for it) from his picture. Her reputation remained untarnished by the defamatory assault, but Hone’s crudely expressed jealousy, both professional and personal, did him no favors among his peers.

From Wikipedia:

Her friendship with Reynolds was criticized in 1775 by fellow Academician Nathaniel Hone, who courted controversy in 1775 with his satirical picture The Conjurer. It was seen to attack the fashion for Italian Renaissance art and to ridicule Sir Joshua Reynolds, leading the Royal Academy to reject the painting. It also originally included a nude caricature of Kauffman in the top left corner, which he painted out after she complained to the academy. The combination of a little girl and an old man has also been seen as symbolic of Kauffman and Reynolds’s closeness, age difference, and rumoured affair. [1]

 

About the Artist (also via Wikipedia):

Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann RA (30 October 1741 – 5 November 1807), usually known in English as Angelica Kauffman, was a Swiss Neoclassical painter who had a successful career in London and Rome. Remembered primarily as a history painter, Kauffmann was a skilled portraitist, landscape and decoration painter. She was, along with Mary Moser, one of two female painters among the founding members of the Royal Academy in London in 1768.

In 1782, Kauffman’s father died, as did her husband in 1795. In 1794, she painted, Self-Portrait Hesitating Between Painting and Music, in which she emphasizes the difficult choice she had faced in choosing painting as her sole career, in dedication to her mother’s death. She continued at intervals to contribute to the Royal Academy in London, her last exhibit being in 1797. After this she produced little, and in 1807 she died in Rome, being honored by a splendid funeral under the direction of Canova. The entire Academy of St Luke, with numerous ecclesiastics and virtuosi, followed her to her tomb in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, and, as at the burial of Raphael, two of her best pictures were carried in procession. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Self-Portrait Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting by Angelica Kauffmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Angelica Kauffman. Self-Portrait Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Angelica_Kauffman._Self-Portrait_Hesitating_Between_the_Arts_of_Music_and_Painting.jpg&oldid=527350844 (accessed September 23, 2021).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Angelica Kauffman,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Angelica_Kauffman&oldid=1045596134 (accessed September 23, 2021).

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