Past exhibition archive
13 March - 15 June 2008
Brilliant Women explores the impact of the original 'Bluestocking Circle', a group of celebrated women writers, artists and thinkers who forged new links between gender, learning and virtue in eighteenth-century Britain. These women were not just brilliant, they were exceptional, both for their individual accomplishments and for breaking the boundaries of what women could be expected to undertake or achieve.
The exhibition includes famous paintings and rarely seen portraits, satirical prints and personal artefacts of the Bluestocking Circle. It also considers the way a wider range of women, inspired by the model of the bluestockings, created a public 'profile' for themselves. Portraits of the artist Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807), historian Catharine Macaulay (1731-91) and early 'feminist' Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), reveal how women used portraiture to advance their work and reputations in a period which begins with the Enlightenment and ends with the onset of the French Revolution.
Although the bluestockings made a substantial contribution to the creation and definition of a national culture, their intellectual participation and artistic interventions have largely been forgotten. Brilliant Women: 18th-Century Bluestockings reveals the history and significance of bluestockings and their culture.