Research is one necessary task for a writer of historical fiction. Sometimes research uncovers the unexpected.
While searching for portrait painters from the Georgian/Regency period I discovered that, when a personal act of George III founded the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, two of the founding members were women: Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman. Since I would have expected women to be excluded from a prestigious academic institution, that fact startled me. It came as no surprise to find that, although women occasionally exhibited with the RA throughout the nineteenth century, no woman was elected to full membership Academy between Moser’s death and 1939.
Mary Moser’s father and primary teacher, George Moser, was the drawing master for George III when
the future king was a boy. She showed talent very young and by age 14 had exhibited and begun to collect medals and awards. Her renown rested chiefly with flower paintings. In the 1790s she accepted a commission to complete floral decorations at Frogmore House, Queen Charlotte’s country retreat at Windsor. She died in London in 1819.
Angelica Kauffman, by contrast, painted portraits in an era of great portrait painters. She was in fact a great friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds, by some
accounts too close. Born in 1741, she displayed talent in early childhood came to maturity as a painter in London after her father moved their when she was twelve. She received many prestigious commissions include ones from the royal family. In later life she married an Italian artist and moved first to Venice, then to Rome. Goethe, who visited her there, called her “the most accomplished woman in Europe.” She died in Rome in 1807.
For more click on the artist names. See also: