The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Brilliant Women

Brilliant Women exhibition banner

Past exhibition archive
13 March - 15 June 2008

Porter Gallery

Admission Free

Sponsored by

Blackberry logo

Herbert Smith logo

Conference| Publication| Audio

Exhibition: The Bluestocking circle| Celebrating Modern Muses| A Revolution in Female Manners

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.

Discover

Scientific techniques

Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.

Watch now

Subjects and themes

Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!

Discover the Collection


Black History Month

Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.

Take the tour

A Picture of Health

Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.

Explore the timeline