Angelik Kaufman, a German artist of the 18th century can be safely put on a par with the most famous representatives of classicism. Now her name is not very well known to the general public, but at one time she was a very famous artist. “My portrait for one friend was made by an exceptional person, one German artist. She is very strong in portraits … Her name is Angelica Kaufmann,” the famous German historian, Winkelmann, spoke of her.
To order her a portrait was considered prestigious, among her customers were Potemkin’s niece, the famous beauty Countess Skavronskaya, and Emperor Paul I with his wife, and even Catherine II. Who is she, a woman, in the 18th century, when women were destined, as they used to say in Germany, “cuisine, church, children”, accepted into the ranks of the most prestigious art academies of that time? On the self-portrait we see a pretty, pretty woman, tastefully dressed in the fashion of the 18th century. Angelica was generously endowed with nature: her ability to music, the talent of the painter, her charming appearance and sharp mind – she was considered one of the most educated women in Europe.
How did she manage to achieve such success?
Her father, a poor German artist Johann Joseph Kaufman, discerned the talent of a painter in his young daughter, and from the age of six the girl works with the burden of an adult, from the age of nine she tries to paint in oil, and at eleven she receives the first order. At the age when other girls play with dolls, she sells her paintings at Italy’s wealthy villas to help her family, and 12 delights the entire Milanese courtyard with her portraits. Young Angelika possesses not only the talent of a painter, but also impeccable hearing and voice. But in those days, the singer’s career was considered sinful, and her father made his choice in favor of painting. True, singing also attracts Angelica, over time, she will paint a picture: her name is two muses, Music and Paintings, but the girl inclines to the second. True, in her youth she did not escape hesitation: her first love, a musician, encouraged her to leave her tyrant father, leave with him and become a singer. But Angelica was an obedient daughter and stayed with her father. Only the painting “Orpheus and Eurydice”, on which Orpheus has the face of his beloved Angelica, recalls the departed love. Having finally made a choice in favor of painting, she devotes herself entirely to work. At that time, it was fashionable to depict puppet beauties in the form of shepherds in the lap of nature, and Angelica writes pastorals. One of the evidence of her talent recognition is the fact that the very young Kaufman, the only one of the women, was allowed to copy the works of great masters in the Milan Gallery. After the death of the mother, the family briefly moved to Austria. There is no demand for shepherds in Austria and Kaufman makes murals in the parish church.
She often moves, after Milan goes to Austria, then moves to Rome and is fond of antiquity. A significant role was played in this by the German historian Winkelmann, famous for his excavations at Pompeii. The portrait of Winkelmann by Kaufman, art critic Hanne Gagel, considers it more psychological than other images of Winkelmann, since he “emphasizes not only the official facade, but the internal properties of the depicted face.” Kaufman received professional recognition in 1765, when at 24 she was admitted to the Academy of St. Luke in Rome, and three years later, the French Royal Academy.
In Rome, Angelica meets many Englishmen and in 1766 travels to London, where she expects tremendous success. The young, beautiful, talented artist becomes the darling of the royal family, in the salons she conquers many men, Reynolds himself, the president of the English Academy of Arts, invites Angelica to become his wife. But Angelica refuses. There was no shortage of fans, and finally Count Horn conquered her heart. Even the girl accustomed to praise, the compliments of the secular lion are dizzy – the count is buying up paintings for fabulous money. Soon Horn makes an offer to Angelica. Of course, such a party is flattering to the daughter of a poor German artist, and, despite the discontent of her father, who immediately disliked the future son-in-law, she agrees. Soon, Horn secretly comes to the bride and reports terrible news – he was falsely accused of a political crime, and only an immediate marriage with Angelica, who is in great mercy with the Queen, can save him. The young naive girl did not suspect deception and they quickly got married. Subsequently, it turned out that her husband – an adventurer, living under different names, was sent to her by a rejected admirer. The alleged Horn made scandals, did not come home, and soon the marriage was declared invalid. But this personal tragedy forced the artist to withdraw and limit her circle of friends to her closest friends. She lived in London for 15 years, creating paintings on biblical and mythological themes and participating in the life of the English Academy of Arts.
Angelica’s father, feeling the approaching old age, persuades his daughter to return to Italy. Kaufman becomes a member of the Venetian Academy of Arts and marries a rather mediocre painter, Antonio Zucci. In Rome, Angelica meets Goethe.