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Eighteenth-Century Women Artists
Their Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs
The eighteenth century was an age when not only the aristocracy but a burgeoning middle class could enjoy a remarkable flowering of the arts. But it was a man's world; any woman who wished to succeed as an artist had to overcome numerous obstacles. In a society in which women were required to marry, reproduce, and conform to rigid social conventions a professional artist risked becoming an object of gossip and hostility. Nevertheless, for a woman who had charm and good looks, was ambitious, and allied talent with hard work, success was attainable. This book examines the careers and working lives of celebrated artists like Angelica Kauffman and Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun but also of those who are now forgotten. As well as assessing the work itself - from history and genre painting to portraits - it considers artists' studios, the functioning of the print market, how art was sold, the role of patrons and the flourishing world of the lady amateur. It is enriched by up to 55 illustrations in glorious colour.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Chapman makes clear that her book distills scholarship for a general reader, to avoid the "impenetrable prose" of scholars who "tend to see ... misogynists under every bed." Despite this disclaimer, she presents sociocultural expectations for 18th-century women as the primary antagonist in women's struggles to become artists but declines to interrogate those restrictions. Chapman's lively, breezy prose and quotations will bring these subjects to life for nonspecialists, and her discussions of print culture, genres of painting, exhibitions, and patronage provide satisfying context for more experienced readers. However, the historical moment flattens without a more nuanced explanation of the groundbreaking nature of new public exhibitions, the important differences between "academies," and Chapman's categories of professional and amateur, which require consideration of the role of class within gender. Chapman draws from foundational research on the topic (the work of Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin, Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Melissa Lee Hyde, Angela Rosenthal, Laura Auricchio), but she notably excludes theoretically informed scholarship, even that on major figures like Elisabeth Vig e-Lebrun, whose exceptional career--which Mary Sheriff demonstrated in The Exceptional Woman--was used by an enlightened but patriarchal society to "prove the rule" of women's creative inferiority. Illustrations are numerous and excellent, but difficult to locate while reading. Recommended."--Choice