Scandalous Academician: Mary Moser
Mary Moser (1744-1819) was “one of the most celebrated women artists of 18th-century Britain,” yet today she’s mostly overlooked. In honor of the 265th anniversary of her birth, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting facts about Moser.
1. Mary Moser received training from George III’s own drawing master—her father, George Michael Moser, an artist and enameller. Thanks to her inherent skill and her father’s tutelage, Moser was an accomplished artist by her teens, winning her first Royal Society of Arts medal at age 14.
2. In 1786, Moser was one of the 36 founding members of the Royal Academy. (Her father was also a founder.) Angelica Kauffmann was the only other female founding member. More than 115 years passed after Moser’s death before another woman (Dame Laura Knight) would be elected a full member of the Royal Academy.
3. Moser “was notoriously marginalized,” according to the National Portrait Gallery, in Johann Zoffany’s “The Academicians of the Royal Academy” (1772). The painting depicts the founding members of the Academy surrounding a nude model but, since women weren’t allowed to participate in such training, Moser and Kauffmann are only shown in portraits hanging on the wall. A later painting by Henry Singleton, “The Royal Academicians in General Assembly” (1795), devoid of nude models, places Moser and Kauffmann directly behind the president of the Academy.
4. Due in part to her father’s royal connections, Moser received several commissions from King George and Queen Charlotte. The most prestigious and famous of those commissions was a floral decorative scheme for the Frogmore House in the 1790s. The “prestigious and lucrative commission”—Moser was paid £900—made Moser “the envy of her male colleagues.” It was also one of her last professional works, as she retired upon her marriage in 1793.
5. In 1793, shortly after she married Hugh Lloyd, Moser embarked on a six month sketching tour with the miniaturist Richard Cosway. Cosway, who was separated from his wife Maria (also a painter), made “lascivious statements” in his notebook about his sexual activities with Moser, directly comparing Moser’s skills in bed to those of his wife. Apparently, Moser was “more sexually responsive,” even though she was 50 and Maria was only 33.
Larger versions of the two Moser paintings shown, both titled “A Vase of Flowers,” are available here.
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