This adorable portrait of nine year old Rachel is painted by British animal painter Edwin Henry Landseer (yes, the one giving rise to the name of the dog). He was a close friend to the family, and I think that’s why the portrait is so very personal and intimate. I get the feeling that she without permission sneaked out to the hay barn to indulge in her book in peace and quiet, and Landseer sketched her without her noticing. I love how the focus is on her pretty childish face and the amazing hairdo, while the rest is rather blurry.
For the final exam of my art history class, we are (among other things) to pick two portraits of our own choice and analyse them. It has taken me quite some time to choose, browsing through women artists at Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. Choosing portraits by female artists is a statement from my side, women artists have been overlooked for such a long time.
I finally decided on two self-portraits, by Angelica Kauffman and Rolinda Sharples, simply because I find them very pretty and appealing. These two women were born in the same century, but still, there’s an ocean of time between them. Ms Kauffman was born in Switzerland in 1741, and was taught the craft by her father. She early showed signs of great talent, and for a large part of her life stayed in Italy and Great Britain earning her way as a portrait and history painter. In 1768 she was one of only two female painters among the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts, so she was very well famous during her days. I’ve read somewhere that she was very charming; add prettiness and talent and success is a fact. Angelica Kauffman lived a long and productive life, and died at the age of 66 in Rome.
Ms Sharples was born almost 50 years later, in 1793. Both of her parents were artists, and all children showed talent. The family moved back and forth to the Americas but permanently moved back to Great Britain in 1811, after the death of her father. Together with her mother Ms Sharples resided in Bristol, where she painted portraits and every day scenes of Regency social life. It was primarily her mother who was in charge of her education, and the two of them remained very close for her entire life. Rolinda Sharples died at age 45 of breast cancer. In 1827 she became an honorary member of the Society of British Artists, but her fame was nothing in the magnitude near Ms Kauffman's.
Taking this class of art history is one of the best things I’ve done lately. It takes a whole lot of time, there’s a lot to read, and so many new aspects on history and humanity to consider. One thing that I really enjoy is all new acquaintances I make.
Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun is one adorable person I’ve gotten to know. She was a portrait painter most famous for her portraits of Marie Antoinette, and later she toured Europe and painted lots of royalties and socialites. Her legacy consists of more than 600 portraits, scattered over the world in private collections and art museums. Studying her paintings online (thank you Wikimedia Commons!) was made an even better experience when I found out she had written her autobiography later in life. It can be downloaded through Project Gutenberg, and it’s totally worth the time reading.
I especially like Vigée-Lebrun’s portraits of mothers with their children, they are very intimate and lovingly. Some of my favourites you can see in the slide show below.
I love this portrait of Princess Marie-Louise Thérèse of Savoy-Carignan, painted by Joseph Duplessis, it’s adorable. But reading a little about her made me question the motif. Is it an authentic portrait? Or just a part of the anti-royal propaganda of the time?
Marie-Louise was unhappily married for a year as a teenager, and later became one of Queen Marie-Antoinette’s best friends. When it came to personal matter she was very private, and there was no gossip concerning her. But critics of the monarchy regularly portrayed her in less flattering ways, insinuating she had a lesbian affaire de coeur with the Queen.
Who is the receiver of this portrait?
Joseph Duplessis, last quarter of the 18th century, Marie Louise Thérèse de Savoie de Carignan, Princesse de Lamballe.
Why do I like this portrait so much?
First of all; I like portraits of women (see previous post on “Kål-Margit”).
Secondly; She looks happy, relaxed, and a little bit naughty. As if she just went out of bed and is asking for more. Very sensual! I hope it was the painter that made her feel that way, and that it’s a portrait made out of love. It would break my heart if it’s a false portrait made to smear her.
Thirdly; She's darn pretty! I tend to favour pretty portraits over ugly ones (we will come back to that later – I’ve just bought Umberto Eco’s “On Beauty” and “On Ugliness”).
Another birthday gift for myself is a part time class at university in Art History; The Mask of Beauty. It covers portraits and fashion during the 16’th throughout the 19’th century.
Nationalmuseum in Stockholm recently released more than 3 000 copy right expired paintings to Wikimedia Commons for free use. Lots of beautiful portraits! My absolute favorite when browsing through them all is “Kål-Margit”, a portrait of a young Dalecarlian girl knitting, by famous painter Anders Zorn. If you ever visit Dalecarlia, don't miss the Zorn-museum!
Why do I like this portrait so much?
First of all; I like portraits of women. Women make up half the population - therefore should be portrayed in proportion to that.
Secondly; I like the natural pose. She sits there carrying on her business, and I just observe. I like paintings of people actually doing something. That someone found it important enough to capture it and preserve it for the future. In this case “it” is knitting, a womens do with too low a status, but still depictured by one of the greatest artists of the country.
Thirdly; She's darn pretty! My not-so-wild guess is that's why she was portrayed. Zorn had a thing for pretty young farm girls…
On a deeper level I guess it has to do with identification - this portrait speaks to me on many levels.
Surface pattern designer who loves folk art, gardening and the good things in life.