URI Art professor serves as scholar for national museum

KINGSTON, R.I. — June 7, 1999 — When University of Rhode Island Professor Wendy Wassyng Roworth prepared to present a lecture on 18th century art and Mount Vesuvius in 1979, she found more than just the eruption of a volcano. Her research led to an Angelica Kauffman painting of the famous eruption that took place in 79 A.D. She became so interested in the life of this 18th century painter that it soon exploded into a passion that has taken her all over the country and even overseas. It also brought Roworth to Washington, D.C., as the first ever Scholar-in-Residence for the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the purpose of the scholar-in-residence program is to encourage and give financial support to scholars for research on women artists. Since she was appointed last May as scholar-in-residence, Roworth has had her research and travel in Europe supported by the Museum, and when her term ends in September of 1999, her research will be placed in the NMWA’s archives for use by other scholars. This spring, Roworth presented a lecture series at the museum titled, “Angelica Kauffman: An Enterprising Artist.” The well-received series included a talk entitled, “Angelica Kauffman: Making History,” that provided an overview of Kauffman’s place in history as a women artist and her paintings of historical subjects, and one on “Telling Portraits and Selling Pictures,” that spoke of Kauffman’s portraits and the clients who posed for them. Roworth is now preparing for her third lecture in the series called “Criticism, Gossip, Scandal, and the Reputation of a Woman Artist,” which will be presented in Washington on May 6th. Roworth is sure this lecture will be popular as everyone is interested in gossip, and Kauffman, like so many women artists, was the subject of gossip and criticism. “We’re living in a time where gossip is the thing. Now it’s President Clinton and Monica, in the past it has been President Jefferson’s affair with his slave. Kauffman had What Roworth finds really interesting about Kauffman is that she survived a major scandal without it affecting her professional life. Kauffman was married briefly to a man whom she believed to be a Swedish nobleman. It was later revealed that her husband was not a nobleman at all, and was in fact already married. “It is amazing this scandal didn’t hurt Kauffman’s career. She kept her reputation, her life, her independence, and her friends,” explained Roworth. According to Roworth, Kauffman actually led a pretty remarkable life. Born in 1741, she achieved success in England and Italy in a mostly male-dominated field. The way in which she established a successful career and gained enormous popularity is extraordinary. “The thing I find so interesting about Angelica Kauffman is that she made history paintings. Most women artists before her could only do portraits or still lives because of their lack of training on perspective and anatomy. The way in which she was able to overcome that and produce these paintings on classical history, mythology, and literature is fascinating,” said Roworth. Roworth, who resides in Providence, R.I., has earned numerous grants and fellowships, including multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities. After earning a Master’s degree at Harvard University, Roworth returned to her undergraduate institution, Bryn Mawr College, to complete her doctorate. Roworth has published many works including a book Angelica Kauffman: A Continental Artist in Georgian England. Roworth has also made a video in cooperation with the BBC in England called “Angelica Kauffman and the Choice of Painting,” in collaboration with an exhibit she held in Brighton, England in 1992. The video itself is still being shown in England on a regular basis. She is now finishing another books tentatively titled, Angelica Kauffman: Painting History, History-Painting, and the Business of Art in the Eighteenth Century. For More Information: Wendy Roworth, 401-874-2773 Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-2116