Angelica Kauffman RA (1741 - 1807)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Angelica Kauffman spent only 15 years in England, but made a significant impact on the 18th-century London art scene, becoming one of only two female Founder Members of the Royal Academy.

Born in Chur, Switzerland in 1741, Kauffman trained with her father, the Austrian painterJoseph Johann Kauffman, and was recognised as a child prodigy. The family moved between Austria, Switzerland and Italy where she established a reputation as an artist and was elected a member of the Roman Accademia di San Luca at the age of just 23. After moving to London in 1766, Kauffman struck up a close friendship with Joshua Reynolds, commemorated in the portraits they painted of each other. When the Royal Academy of Arts was established in 1768 with Reynolds as President, she and Mary Moser were the only two women invited to become Founder Members.

Kauffman painted portraits and landscapes, but identified herself primarily as a history painter, the genre Reynolds placed at the heart of the Academy’s teaching. During this period, women were still prohibited from drawing nude models and could only draw the male figure from existing casts, as Kauffman depicts in Design.

In 1778, Kauffman was commissioned by the Royal Academy to paint a set of four ceiling paintings depicting the ‘Elements of Art’, to be displayed in the new Council Chamber. A visual representation of the theories that Reynolds set out in his Discourses on Art, the fouroval paintings present four female figures as Invention, Composition, Design and Colour.

In her later years, Kauffman moved back to Italy, settling in Rome, where she died in 1807. Her funeral was arranged by the famous sculptor Antionio Canova and a bust of Kauffman, sculpted by her cousin Johann Peter Kauffmann, was subsequently placed in the Pantheon in Rome, beside that of Raphael.


Royal Academician

Foundation Member

Born: 30 October 1741 in Coire, Switzerland

Died: 5 November 1807

Nationality: Swiss

Elected RA: 10 December 1768

Gender: Female

Preferred media: Painting

Works by Angelica Kauffman in the RA Collection

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Works after Angelica Kauffman in the RA Collection

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Works associated with Angelica Kauffman in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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Associated archives

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