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Mary Moser | Painter and a Founding of the Royal Academy

Mary Moser RA (1744-1819) was an British painter and one of the most celebrated female artists of 18th-century Britain.
One of only two female founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768 (along with Angelica Kauffmann), Moser painted portraits but is particularly noted for her depictions of flowers.

George Romney (1734-1802) | A portrait of Mary Moser, 1770 | National Portrait Gallery, London

Life and career

London-born Moser was trained by her Swiss-born artist and enameller father George Michael Moser (1706-1783), George III's own drawing master.
Her talents were evident at an early age: she won her first Society of Arts medal at 14, and regularly exhibited flower pieces, and occasional history paintings, at the Society of Artists of Great Britain.
Ten years later, however, her thirst for professional recognition led her to join with 35 other artists (including her father) in forming the Royal Academy, and, with Angelica Kauffmann, she took an active role in proceedings.

In a group portrait by Johan Zoffany, The Academicians of the Royal Academy (1771-72; Royal Collection, London), members are shown gathered around a nude male model at a time when women were excluded from such training in order to protect their modesty.

Johan Zoffany | The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy, 1771 | Royal Collection

So that Moser and Kauffmann could be included, Zoffany added them as portraits hanging on the wall.

Johan Zoffany | The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy (detail), 1771 | Royal Collection

Moser's influences include the older Dutch masters, famed for glowing color against dark backgrounds.
From the beginning, her approach was "bold and luxurious", writes Germaine Greer.
In the 1790s, Moser received a prestigious commission, for which she was paid over £900, from Queen Charlotte to complete a floral decorative scheme for a room in Frogmore House in Windsor, Berkshire.

This was to prove one of her last professional works.
At 53, she married Captain Hugh Lloyd, the widower of a friend on 23 October 1793.
She retired and began exhibiting as an amateur under her married name.
She continued showing at the Royal Academy until 1802.

At this period Moser had a brief affair with artist Richard Cosway, who was then separated from his wife Maria Cosway, an Anglo-Italian artist.
Moser travelled with him for six months on a sketching tour in 1793.
"One of the most celebrated women artists of 18th-century Britain" Moser died in Upper Thornhaugh Street, London, on 2 May 1819, and was buried, alongside her husband in Kensington Cemetery.

Moser's pieces in the British Royal Collection show that she was not only "the first significant British flower painter, she was also one of the best".
Her portrait of famed British sculptor Joseph Nollekens hangs in the Yale Center for British Art.


After Moser's death in 1819, no further women were elected as full members of the Academy until Dame Laura Knight in 1936. | Source: © Wikipedia

Henry Singleton (1766-1839) | The Royal Academicians in General Assembly, 1795 | Royal Collection
This scene is idealised.
Behind President Benjamin West, to the left, are Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser, the two founding women Academicians.
But, as women, Kauffman and Moser did not in fact attend meetings of the General Assembly, so would not have been present.

Henry Singleton (1766-1839) | The Royal Academicians in General Assembly, 1795 (detail) | Royal Collection

Figlia del medaglista e primo custode della Royal Academy, George Michael Moser (1704-83), Mary Moser (1744-1819).
Mary Moser nacque a Londra nel 1744, figlia dell'artista svizzero Georg-Michael Moser, maestro di disegno di Giorgio III.
Il suo talento artistico emerse quando era ancora giovanissima e fu riconosciuto non solo dal padre ma anche dalla Society of Arts, che la premiò nel 1858.

Nel 1876 fu tra i trentasei artisti fondatori della Royal Academy of Arts e l'unica artista donna insieme ad Angelica Kauffmann.
Pittrice apprezzata di nature morte e floreali, negli anni 1790 la regina Carlotta le commissionò le decorazioni di una stanza di Frogmore House per 900£.
Il 23 ottobre 1793 sposò il capitano Hugh Lloyd e smise di dipingere professionalmente.
Continuò comunque ad esibire le proprie opere a livello amatoriale e con il nome da sposata.

In questo periodo ebbe una relazione con l'artista Richard Cosway, che all'epoca era separato dalla moglie Maria.
Morì a Londra nel 1819 e fu sepolta nel cimitero di Kensington accanto al marito.
Dopo la sua morte nessun'altra donna fu eletta membro della Royal Academy of Arts fino al 1936, quando questo onore fu riservato a Laura Knight.