Strategies for Showing: Women, Possession, and Representation in English Visual Culture, 1665-1800

By Marcia Pointon | Go to book overview

4
Working, Earning, Bequeathing: Mary Grace and Mary Moser -- 'Paintresses'

OUR VIEW of the situation of women artists in London in the eighteenth century has been very much coloured by the high-profile example of the internationally renowned Angelica Kauffman. Nor is this situation new: Maria Hadfield (later to marry Richard Cosway) was described by James Northcote in 1778/9 as following in the footsteps of Angelica Kauffman.1 And it was Kauffman who was chosen to appear as one of the Nine Living Muses of Great Britain in Richard Samuel's painting of that title, engraved and published in ( Joseph) Johnson's Ladies New and Polite Pocket Memorandum for 1778.2 While Kauffman, recently the subject of a substantial exhibition,3 has maintained a place in a general view of the eighteenth-century art world, the same cannot be said of her companion in Zoffany's and Singleton's celebrated portraits of members of the Royal Academy. In the former, painted in 1772 and in the Royal Collection, Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser, founder members of the Academy, are represented through portraits on the walls, a form of exclusion that has been frequently noted.4 The latter, showing the Royal Academicians assembled in their Council Chamber to adjudge the medals to the successful students, engraved and published in 1802 (Pl. 18), represents the two women members standing side by side in a highly prominent position, behind the chair of the President. So one way of correcting this view is to ask, in the first place what happened to Mary Moser, in the second place were these two women so very unusual in pursuing professional careers as artists, and in the third place how might the work of an artist (such as Mary Moser) who made her reputation as a flower painter (a genre perceived as particularly female) be better understood within a historical context (Pl. 24).

I shall, therefore, be focusing in this chapter on the lives and work of two Marys: Mary Moser and her contemporary, the completely unknown Mary Grace. A number of premisses frame this chapter. First I want to suggest that

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