The Easel

12th March 2024

The meteoric rise of Angelica Kauffman RA

Arriving in London in 1766, Kauffman quickly became famous; ambitious, skilled at using “women’s power” while remaining “brilliantly unthreatening”. Such was her eminence that she was one of just two female founders of the Royal Academy. Admirable, but what about her art? It noticeably gets little coverage in a number of reviews, and one critic explains why. “[Her style] was theatricality … her figures pose with all the subtlety of street signs. [Her art] is frictionlessly fashionable”.

A Hidden History of Europe’s Pre-Modernist Women Artists

Linda Nochlin’s famous 1971 essay queried the absence of great female artists. Since then, art history has re-discovered many of them and, in some cases, greatly elevated their status. Artemisia Gentileschi is but one example. A survey of female artists reveals plenty of “genteel amateurism”, which only speaks to the many women who, feeling thwarted, pursued various “sub-artistic” crafts. This show also reveals that whether an artist chose painting or craft, talent has a way of showing through.