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Newsletter - March 2012


What do you call an old master who is a woman artist?

Leslie Primo asked us this question at the beginning of his lecture on Angelica Kauffman. In the course of the lecture we learned a lot about an extraordinary woman, a gifted painter, who is little known.

Angelica Kauffman, who was born in Switzerland in 1741, was already a talented artist and musician at a young age, nurtured by her father, also an artist. By the age of fifteen she was accepting commissions, and she and her father moved to Florence as Italy was the home of great art. She honed her skills by copying works by Titian and Rembrandt and was soon accepted in the Florence Academy of Design.

Self Portrait, Hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting
Self Portrait, Hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting

In 1766 she arrived in London on her own, and became one of the founding members of the Royal Academy, although excluded from (the male-dominated) full membership of the RA. As a single woman moving in a male world, her life and reputation were the source of gossip and she made an unfortunate marriage to a bigamist, and fake Count, who was eventually bought off by her father.

She painted as a professional, in oils, when women painters were considered amateurs and suited to watercolours. However, her portraits included important figures of the day, including David Garrick and Joshua Reynolds. Portraiture was fashionable but not considered serious art, unlike allegorical or historical subjects of intellectual quality and therefore reserved for men and Angelica was criticised for exploring these subjects.

She returned to Italy in 1781 and found historical paintings were in demand and these became an important part of her work. However, she continued to paint portraits and even royal commissions for the King of Naples and Catherine the Great of Russia. At the age of 40 she married happily to Antonia Zucchi, another artist, who catalogued her work and, as she had left London with the enormous fortune of £14,000, they lived in some style in Rome. She lived to the age of 66 and at her death a huge funeral procession honoured her fame and reputation as an excellent artist in her own right.

We had heard the story of the remarkable life of an exceptional woman and seen beautiful examples of her paintings; an excellent evening.

Portrait of Geothe by Angelica Kauffman
Portrait of Geothe by Angelica Kauffman

Two weeks to go!

We look forward to receiving more renewals of membership to keep our Society in good health and to enable to us to fulfil one of our main aims to have funds for projects such as Young Arts activities. Please also remember to cancel your standing order, if you set up one last year. If you have not already sent in your cheque to Tine Feilden please do so by the end of March, to enable us to give out your new membership card at the April meeting.

All next year’s programme of lectures are now on our website, and the year promises to be a really excellent one.

If you have lost your application form please email Tina at

One more chance…

…to use your green ticket, if you have not already done so. The number of visitors to the last few lectures has been very encouraging, with very good attendances all round. If you brought a guest, and they enjoyed the lecture, please encourage them to join us!

New exhibitions

Royal Academy
Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed
until 10 June
Review link:

Queen Charlotte with her two Eldest Sons