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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Angelica Kauffman

b. 1741, Graubünden, Switzerland; d. 1807, Rome

Angelica Kauffman was born to an amateur painter who taught his precocious daughter the craft. A gifted musician, linguist, and artist, she settled at a young age on painting as a profession, a choice commemorated in a later self-portrait. She was known in Italy as a portrait painter by the age of twelve, but she had ambitions beyond creating likenesses of aristocratic patrons—she aspired to make history paintings of classical and mythological subjects. Traveling through Italy with her father, she made many contacts in artistic circles, and was strongly influenced by the proponents of Neoclassicism; in 1766, she relocated to London, a center of the new movement, and immediately befriended Joshua Reynolds. By this time, she had been admitted to the academies of Florence, Bologna, and Rome; in 1768, along with thirty-five other artists, including Reynolds, she became a founding member of the Royal Academy of Art. She rapidly emerged as a leading portrait painter in London with an internationale clientele, simultaneously producing heroic-scale allegorical paintings that were submitted to Academy exhibitions and much praised. She returned to Rome in 1782, by this time married to a fellow artist, and continued her prolific output. Her home became an informal salon, as international in character as her clientele, and an essential stop on the Grand Tour.