Thanks to Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun exhibition in Paris, I have discovered the work of this artist. Before, I mainly knew her portraits of Queen Marie-Antoinette.
Her life could have been the subject of a novel. Her father was a pastellist and she started drawing as she was very young. She painted many portraits and finally was recommended to French queen Marie-Antoinette. She soon became Marie-Antoinette official painter.
During the French Revolution broke out, being close to Marie-Antoinette became risky. Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun fled France with her daughter and travelled through Europe. Her reputation and her social skills helped her to fit in different European courts. She earned a living painting high society and celebrities. In her paintings, I found people who were also in history books.
Vigée Le Brun revealed the personality of her models by playing with poses, backgrounds, she represents some characters with a rose, a book or a a sheet of music. But her paintings have in common a form of softness.
At that time, painting replaced photography. Portraits were also used to become better known and to look good. And Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was a master in the art of
photoshopping making her models look beautiful.
In addition to portraits, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun painted a lot of family paintings and child portraits.
What is interesting too is the evolution of hairstyles and outfits as fashions was changing, such as those two portraits that were painted 30 years apart.
Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun wished she were a history painter, the most prestigious category at the time, and she would paint historical and mythological scenes but moral used to forbid women to paint naked men. It didn’t prevent her from making paintings inspired by Mythology such as this painting of Lady Hamilton as a bacchante.
Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was allowed to come back to France by Napoléon. She painted portraits and drew pastel landscapes until an advanced age.
For more information:
* Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun exhibition in Paris website
* You can still attend Vigée Le Brun exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Canada until September 11, 2016