In 1779 the painting exhibition at the Royal Academy included a group portrait of prominent female artists, entitled
The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain
. The nine women represented there were the singer Elizabeth Linley Sheridan, the painter Angelica Kauffman, the poet and critic Anna Lætitia Barbauld, the scholar and poet Elizabeth Carter, the novelist Charlotte Lennox, the educator and writer Hannah More, the writer and actress Elizabeth Griffith, the bluestocking literary patron, writer and critic Elizabeth Montagu, and the historian Catherine Macaulay. While this group included notable bluestocking figures (Carter, More and Montagu), in reaching beyond members of that circle it represented an imaginary or virtual coterie of female artists. That these ladies might form a female artistic tradition or ‘club’ was picked up by Elizabeth Carter, writing of an earlier engraved form of this painting to her friend Elizabeth Montagu:
One thing is very particularly agreeable to my vanity, to say nothing about my heart, that it seems to be a decided point, that you and I are always to figure in the literary world together, and that from the classical poet, the water drinking rhymes, to the highest dispenser of human fame, Mr. Johnson’s pocket book, it is perfectly well understood, that we are to make our appearance in the same piece. (Carter 1817, III 47–8).