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Friday, 18 September 2015

Female selfies in the National Portrait Gallery, London

Angelica Kauffmann, by Angelica Kauffmann, circa 1770-1775 - NPG 430 - © National Portrait Gallery, London
Angelica Kauffman, Oil on Canvas c. 1770-75 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Kauffman's self-portrait was one of many that celebrated her identity as a female painter. Depicted with the tools of her trade, Kauffman's modest but nonetheless self-assured pose asserts that her professional status is in keeping with the righteousness deemed appropriate for a woman. Kauffman's international reputation was such that in 1768 she became one of the Royal Academy's founding members. 

Laura Knight was the first artist to be made a dame and the first woman to become a full member of the Royal Academy. Knight had not been allowed to attend life drawing classes at art school, which she found deeply frustrating. Nevertheless, this seminal  self-portrait emphasises her skill at depicting the nude figure. The vibrant red tones and sophisticated composition visualise the freedom and courage she found after joining the Newlyn school in 1907, an artistic community in Cornwall. 

Self-portrait, Dame Laura Knight, Oil on Canvas, 1913 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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