Who ART You? 09
Although I didn’t have the opportunity to interview Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, (she was born 1755!) I find her fascinating! Exactly my kind of artist with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
Self-portait with her daughter in 1786
Who ART You?
Born in Paris, France, Louise Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun (1755–1842) is most known as a portrait painter during the utterly decadent Rococo period. She was Marie Antoinette's personal portrait painter, having painted the queen (and sometimes her family) more than 30 times.
Born in Paris on 16 April 1755, Élisabeth Louise Vigée was the daughter of a portraitist and fan painter, Louis Vigée, from whom she received her first instruction. Her mother, Jeanne (née Maissin) (1728–1800), was a hairdresser. In 1760, at the age of five, she entered a convent, where she remained until 1766. Her father died when she was twelve years old. In 1768, her mother married a wealthy jeweler, Jacques-François Le Sèvre, and shortly after, the family moved to the Rue Saint-Honoré, close to the Palais Royal. In her memoir, Vigée Le Brun directly stated her feelings about her step-father: "I hated this man; even more so since he made use of my father's personal possessions. He wore his clothes, just as they were, without altering them to fit his figure." During this period, Élisabeth benefited from the advice of Gabriel François Doyen, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and Joseph Vernet, whose influence is evident in her portrait of her younger brother, Étienne Vigée (1773).
By the time she was in her early teens, Élisabeth was painting portraits professionally. After her studio was seized for her practicing without a license, she applied to the Académie de Saint-Luc, which unwittingly exhibited her works in their Salon. In 1774, she was made a member of the Académie. On 11 January 1776 she married Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, a painter and art dealer. Vigée Le Brun began exhibiting her work at their home in Paris, the Hôtel de Lubert, and the Salons she held here supplied her with many new and important contacts. Her husband's great-great-uncle was Charles Le Brun, the first director of the French Academy under Louis XIV. Vigée Le Brun painted portraits of many of the nobility.
Madame Perregaux, 1789
In 1781 she and her husband toured Flanders and the Netherlands, where seeing the works of the Flemish masters inspired her to try new techniques. Her Self-Portrait with Straw Hat (1782) was a "free imitation" of Peter Paul Rubens' La Chapeau de Paille (ca. 1622–25). Dutch and Flemish influences have also been noted in The Comte d'Espagnac (1786) and Madame Perregaux (1789).
In 1787, she caused a minor public scandal when her Self-Portrait with Her Daughter Julie (1787) was exhibited at the Salon of 1787 showing her smiling and open-mouthed, which was in direct contravention of traditional painting conventions going back to antiquity. The court gossip-sheet Mémoires secretscommented: "An affectation which artists, art-lovers and persons of taste have been united in condemning, and which finds no precedent among the Ancients, is that in smiling, [Madame Vigée LeBrun] shows her teeth." In light of this and her other Self-Portrait with Her Daughter Julie (1789), Simone de Beauvoirdismissed Vigée Le Brun as narcissistic in The Second Sex (1949): "Madame Vigée-Lebrun never wearied of putting her smiling maternity on her canvases."
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