THE WORLD OF SAMUEL MEEKER, MERCHANT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND GILBERT STUART, AMERICAN PORTRAIT ARTIST

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Angelica's Joshua

I felt it unfair to leave you with a rather unflattering image of an older Joshua Reynolds by GS (see entry just below this one 3/10), so here is a portrait of him as a younger man, by Angelica Kaufmann (at this time Gibby would only be 12 and living with family in Newport, RI). The similarity in facial features captured by both artists (Stuart/Kauffman) is striking, and the viewer is left reassured that ....this is what Sir Joshua Reynolds looked like! Note the appropriateness of the arrangement and accoutrements, the formality. This portrait 'pays proper respect' to the great artist. Now compare such qualities, to Stuart's portrait, and we might begin to understand why his picture was considered derogatory by the Monthly Magazine; or British Register. The critic wondered why the Royal Academy President "was depicted with a wig that was as tight and close as a hackney coachman's caxon, and in the act of taking a pinch of snuff." (from Gilbert Stuart, Barratt & Miles quoting from the Monthy Magazine; or British Register July 1804)



Joshua Reynolds; 1767 by Angelica Kauffman @ National Trust, England
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Angelica Kauffman is one of my favorite artists, and is a peer of all the characters that I have thus far mentioned-- born 1747 in Switzerland and raised in Austria. She lived many years in England, and was good friends with Sir Joshua Reynolds. She was the first female to be accepted into the Royal Academy. She subsequently moved back to Rome, at this time the mecca of the Art world ~~Benjamin West studied in Rome--it was the commonly accepted form of high art education; it is rumored that Angelica had a crush on Benjamin during his time there, but interest was not returned. Stuart scoffed at the fact that he had no experience in art education in Italy.~~ Angelica was popular and, rare for a female artist, earned a substantial income from her art. She was one of the first to perfect how to do fast portraits, to earn good income.

When Goethe ran away from his idealized lover Frau von Stein in 1786 (see entries 2/1,4,5,6,7/09), experiencing what he described as the dream of a lifetime in Rome, he and Angelica became the greatest of friends, sharing much time together studying art, composing poetry and enjoying the sights of Italy at this time. After Goethe returned to Weimar two years later, he took up with an unmarried young lady. This was a huge scandal, and correspondence between Angelica and Goethe soon dwindled to a stop.

Angelica was known for painting allegorical, mythological and historical subjects; from 1769 until 1782, she was an annual exhibitor at the Royal Academy. CW Peale named several of his children after great European artists including a daughter, Angelica Kauffman Peale.
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Angelica Kauffman; Self-Portrait, 1780-5; @ The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
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4 comments:

Beth Ahrens-Kley said...

if people are having a problem posting, I apologize (have heard from two people about this)! This is a test~

Mim said...

Just found your blog thru others. Very interesting; the portrait above looks somewhat like a Vigee Le Braun painting - do you know her work? I have an interesting story about her and a painting that my family has. I've been looking for a painting detective for years to do some research for us.

Maureen said...

So, if I did my math correctly, she was 20 when she painted his portrait? Interesting, his expression is one you can this very day on men gazing at a charming younger woman. I love the Goethe story too, did she paint him as well?

Beth Ahrens-Kley said...

to Mim; I love Vigee Le Braun.... send me a copy of your painting and any story you might have about it? Hey, thats an idea, a painting dectective! I wish I had the time...:-(

To Maureen; Sir Joshua called her Angel :-)

 
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