How a failed singer became the most famous artist of the 18th century: "Kaufman, the friend of the muses"
How a failed singer became the most famous artist of the 18th century: "Kaufman, the friend of the muses"

Sometimes it happens that fate - or nature - endows one person with such bright and varied talents that ten would be enough. Sometimes it happens that this person is a woman living in the 18th century, which in itself could become an obstacle to the disclosure of all these many talents. But the story of Angelica Kaufman is a happy exception: she was given a lot from birth, she achieved even more with her work, and life was favorable to her from the first to the last breath …

Self-portraits of the artist

Angelika Kaufman, daughter of the famous Austrian monumental painter, dreamed of being a singer. This voice delighted everyone who had heard the singing of Angelica. She easily mastered French, Italian and English - in addition to German, which she had spoken since childhood. However, the father of her aspirations was skeptical - has she ever been a singer … From an early age, he, not the name of other heirs, nurtured only her artistic talent.

Three singers

At the age of six, the girl was already helping her father in his workshop. Angelica was only twelve when the customers - representatives of the nobility and clergy - lined up to get a portrait painted by her. And a year later, in 1754, Angelica already went to study painting in Italy - something that many older and more experienced artists could only dream of. The trip to Milan, of course, was organized by my father, and he accompanied Angelica, not forgetting to make useful acquaintances …

Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well

And so it happened that the world does not know any singer Angelica Kaufman - although many years later her friend, archaeologist and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann, argued that "she could compete with our virtuosos." But throughout Europe, the name of the artist Angelica Kaufman, one of the most educated women of her time, the creator of magnificent portraits and magnificent mythological scenes, thundered.

Valentine saves Sylvia from two Veronese

At the invitation of the British ambassador and his wife, Angelika and her father went to London, where they lived for almost fifteen years. The English period in Kaufman's life was in a certain sense ambiguous - many admired her talent (and she herself, a rich and witty beauty), she became one of the two founding women of the Royal Academy, along with Mary Moser, she was in high circles. She had a difficult relationship with the then fashionable artist Joshua Reynolds. He praised her work, they mutually painted portraits of each other, but the artist's feelings for "Miss Angel" remained unrequited.

Sleeping nymph and shepherd

At the same time, the public did not welcome her works as warmly as they would like - allegories, muses and goddesses were not held in high esteem by the strict British public, they also did not like historical plots. Whether it's a luxurious ceremonial portrait! But Kaufman - which was very unusual for a woman in the art of those times - considered herself precisely an adherent of the historical genre.

Portrait of John Simpson. Portrait of Louise Leveson-Gover as the Goddess of Hope

In addition, in London, Angelica married extremely unsuccessfully, becoming a victim of a marriage swindler - perhaps the only event that darkened her triumphant life path. He was handsome, sociable, showered her with compliments and bought all her paintings, but … he was not at all who he pretended to be.There is a version (inspired Victor Hugo to create the drama "Ruy Blaz") that the offended Reynolds contributed to the masquerade, who first persuaded an ambitious young acquaintance to charm the artist, calling himself a count, and then solemnly revealed the deception. The same Reynolds later painted a portrait of Kaufman with a kind of harsh, hinting at debauchery.

Miranda and Ferdinand

Be that as it may, the young husband really was a swindler, Angelica managed to quickly divorce, the swindler got what he deserved … However, she experienced this betrayal hard and for a long time. The artist has brought to naught her social life and retained a very narrow social circle. But she still worked hard and fruitfully.

Monk from Calais

For all her love for historical painting, Kaufman did not always achieve the desired level in her works, since women were not allowed to work with nudity. At the same time, she was surprisingly successful in portraits - exquisite shades, subtle psychology, impeccable composition … In addition, Kaufman was fond of encaustics, successfully dabbled in engraving, was engaged in what would now be called design - invented furniture, decorated interiors, developed ornaments for dishes … Her creative baggage included monumental church frescoes and miniatures.

Penelope Awakened by Eureklea

In 1781, at the insistence of her elderly father, the artist remarried - her (or rather, his father's - Mr. Kaufman decided to take matters into his own hands) became the chosen one, "a colleague in the shop", the Venetian Antonio Zucci. There was no special love between the spouses, and Zucci's talent was significantly inferior to the genius of Kaufman.

Self-portrait. Portrait of Mary-Caroline of Austria

However, with him, she went to Rome and opened her own studio there, which was very popular. This place has become a real Mecca for progressive European thinkers. Kaufmann was warm friends with Johann Wolfgang Goethe and many other famous poets, philosophers, artists and writers. She was commissioned by monarchs from all over Europe - the Russian Emperor Paul I did not escape this temptation, and his wife painted miniatures from the paintings of "Miss Angel". "The painter is glorious, Kaufman, friend of the Muses!" - with these words begins the ode written to her by the poet Gavriil Romanovich Derzhavin.

Allegory of painting

She died at the dawn of the 19th century, in 1807, in Rome. The entire Academy of St. Luke accompanied her on her last journey, solemnly carrying behind the coffin the best paintings of the artist - before such an honor was awarded only to Raphael. Famous artists named their daughters in her honor, and a crater on Venus was named after her. Kaufman's works are in almost all major collections of world painting, including the Hermitage. And in her native country there is a museum of Angelica Kaufman with an annually renewed exposition. It is not known what heights Kaufman would have reached if she had chosen the path of an opera singer - however, with a brush and palette in her hands, she managed to surpass many of her male contemporaries.

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