Saturday, May 01, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Our heroine this weekend is artist Mary Moser, who died on May 2, 1819! She was born in London on October 27, 1744, and her father, the Swiss-born artist and enameller George Michael Moser (who once served as drawing master to George III). He recognized his daughter's talent early on; she won her first Royal Society of Arts medal when she was only 14, and regularly exhibited her paintings of flowers at the Society of Artists.

In 1768, she became only of only 2 female founding members of the Royal Academy (the other being Angelica Kauffmann, and it would 1936 before another woman was elected to the Academy). Her father was also one of the 35 founders. In Johann Zoffany's famous painting The Academicians of the Royal Academy, which showed the founding members gathered around a nude model--but Kauffmann and Moser were only shown in portraits on the wall, since a female couldn't train in that area of art! In another portrait in 1795, Henry Singleton's The Royal Academicians in General Assembly, there were no nude models and the 2 women were prominently featured.

In the 1790s, Moser received several commissions from King George and Queen Charlotte, including a floral decorative scheme for Frogmore House at Windsor. The prominence of the job (for which Moser was handsomely paid) made her the envy of her colleagues, though she retired soon after when she married a man named Hugh Lloyd in 1793 (though she went on exhibiting her work as an amateur, including at the Royal Academy until 1802). Not much is known about the marriage, though it probably wasn't terribly happy since soon after it occured she went on a 6-month "sketching tour" with artist Richard Cosway (who was separated from his artist wife Maria). He wasn't very gentlemanly in his diaries, declaring she was "more sexually responsive" than his wife (among other remarks!).

It's thought that after 1802 she mostly taught quietly at home. She died in 1819. Information about the Romney portrait of Moser seen above, which is in the National Portrait Gallery, can be found here.

Sources (I had a hard time finding a huge amount about Moser and her life, so I turned to my trusty art history books left over from college!):
Wendy Slatkin, Women Artists in History
Helen Gardner, Art Through the Ages

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