The Gentler Sex: Women Artists of the Regency

Throughout the Regency Era, women were considered inferior in every respect. Women were the lesser within family, marriage, and society. Belief in the inferiority of women extended into the arts. Although many female artists of the Regency Era are notable, their talent was never fully appreciated within their lifetimes. However, if one studies their work, one learns the fault in such chauvinism.

Maria Cosway 

Maria Cosway was of English and Italian descent. She married a fellow painter in 1781, the renowned Richard Cosway. It is interesting to note that, in 1786, she’d a romantic affair with Thomas Jefferson. Letters exchanged between the two support this supposition, but beyond this not much else is known of their relationship. It’s possible correspondence was the extent of their romance—or possibly more.


Perhaps Cosway’s most famous painting, The Hours.

She worked in France for much of her life, though she cultivated a following in Italy. Her artwork was presented at the Royal Academy of Arts in London during her lifetime. Being a woman, this was a wonderful accomplishment. Her works have been secured by the New York Public Library, British Museum, and British Library.

Marie-Denise Villers

Marie was a French painter, who specialized in portraiture. She was born into an artistic family, with her two sisters also being accomplished painters. She studied under Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, which led to much success. Her first exhibition came in 1799 at the Paris Salon. She presented her work once more at the Paris Salon in 1801 and 1802.

Paintings by Marie-Denise Villers. On the left, her most famous work, Young Woman Drawing.

Her most famous work, Young Woman Drawing, was accredited to Jacques-Louis David for the longest time. Then, it was theorized one of his female pupils, Constance Marie Charpentier, painted the piece. However, after years of argumentation between historians, the painting is recognized as coming from Marie’s hand. This piece now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Amelia Long, Lady Farnborough

Lady Farnorough was something of an amateur artist. She’s little known, even to this day, and information on her life is scarce. She married Charles Long, a politician, who was made the first Baron Farnborough. During her lifetime, the Somerset House Gazette described her as having “a talent for painting and drawing that might fairly rank with the professors of the living art.” She showed her art at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1807 and 1822 as an Honorary Exhibitor.

Paintings by Amelia Long, Lady Farnborough. She produced mostly landscapes, which are remarkable in detail.


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