The Art and World of Angelica Kauffman, Eighteenth-Century Icon
The first biography of this extraordinary woman in over 80 years.
A word was coined to describe the condition of people stricken with a new kind of fever when the Swiss-born artist Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) came to London in 1766. 'The whole world', it was said, 'is Angelicamad.'
One of the most successful women artists in history - a painter who possessed what her friend Goethe called an 'unbelievable' and 'massive' talent - Kauffman became the toast of Georgian England, captivating society with her portraits, mythological scenes and decorative compositions. She knew and painted poets, novelists and playwrights, collaborating with them and illustrating their work; her designs adorned the houses of the Grand Tourists she had met and painted in Italy; actors, statesmen, philosophers, kings and queen sat to her; and she was the force that launched a thousand engravings. Despite rumours of relationships with other artists (including Sir Joshua Reynolds), and an apparently bigamous and annulled first marriage to a pseudo Count, Kauffman was adopted by royalty in England and abroad as a model of social and artistic decorum.
A profoundly learned artist, but one who is loved, above all, for her tender adaptations from classical antiquity and sentimental literature; a commercially successful celebrity yet also a founding member of The Royal Academy of arts; the virginal creator of sexually ambivalent beings who was one of the hardest-headed businesswomen of her age, Kauffman's life and work is full of apparent contradictions explored in this first biography in over 80 years.
“'I've read Miss Angel with enormous pleasure and admiration. A magnificent testimony to Angelica Kauffman. A fascinating read as you uncover, through her portraits, the characters of her myriad sitters - amongst them some of the leading figures of the later eighteenth century...It's brilliant.'”
“If Angelica Goodden is named after Angelica Kauffman, [Goodden] has fulfilled her destiny. This is an amusing and solid biography...[Goodden] shows that there was much more to Angelica's story than her art, and the market proves that the taste for her gentle pictures prevails despite the dismissal of puritanical critics.”
John McEwen, Literary Review
“One of [the eighteenth century's] more remarkable women...Kauffman deserves our admiration as much as Goodden merits thanks for bringing her impressive life to our attention.”
Eva Jiricna RA, RA Magazine
You Magazine, Mail on Sunday
“Fascinating and thoroughly researched”
Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday
“Like an 18th-century Tracey Emin... she was a canny operator who capitalised on her image as a naif abroad in the fashionable world.”
“Refreshing... [Kauffman] was quite as celebrated as Emin, once upon a time - more so, in fact, since there was simply no one to touch her in her heyday.”
Natasha Walter, Guardian
“A riveting reappraisal. Angelica Goodden tells the story of Kauffman's sensational rise to fame in vivid detail with a wealth of new insight into the late eighteenth century European art world in which she operated with such élan. Best of all Goodden tackles the still controversial subject of Kauffman's real standing as an artist, posing the question 'Was she really worth it?' This skilful, perspicacious book convinces us she was.”