Portrait painter Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

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.

Self Portrait with Cerise Ribbon circa 1782 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Self Portrait with Cerise Ribbon circa 1782 (click the pictures to enlarge)

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.

Marie-Antoinette en chemise vers 1783 par Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Marie-Antoinette wearing a nightshirt circa 1783. This painting was criticized because people found disrespectful to show the queen wearing a nightgown.

Marie-Joséphine Louise de Savoie, , Countess of Provence in a nightdress in 1782 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Marie-Joséphine Louise de Savoie, Countess of Provence and King Louis XVI’s sister-in-law in 1782 (she was wearing a nightdress too)

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.

Isabella Teoto chi Marini in 1792 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Isabella Teoto chi Marini in 1792. This painting was for Dominique Vivant Denon, Isabella’s lover.

Princess Karoline Felicitas Engelberte von und zu Liechtenstein in 1793 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Princesse Karoline Felicitas Engelberte von und zu Liechtenstein in 1793

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.

Jeanne Julie Louise Le Brun looking at herself in a mirror in 1787 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Jeanne Julie Louise Le Brun looking at herself in a mirror in 1787. This painting shows Vigée Le Brun dear daughter.

Alexandrine Emilie Brongniart in 1788 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Alexandrine Emilie Brongniart in 1788

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.

Comtesse de la Châtre circa 1789 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Comtesse de la Châtre circa 1789

Tatiana Borssovna Potemkina circa 1820 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Tatiana Borssovna Potemkina circa 1820

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.

Lady Hamilton as a bacchante dancing in front of Vesuvius in 1792 by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Lady Hamilton as a bacchante dancing in front of Vesuvius in 1792

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

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Fifties day outfits

I have drawn several fifties outfits at the 50s Fashion exhibition in palais Galliera in Paris. This article gathers my drawings of day outfits. There will be an article with evening dresses illustrations later.

In the fifties, cinched waist and calf-length were fashionable. This ‘New Look’ began with Christian Dior first fashion show in 1947. At the show, models were wearing full skirts but at that time women also used to wear pencil skirts such as the ones I have drawn.

illustration of a black day suit by Balenciage. 1950 Spring-Summer collection

On the first drawing, a woman is wearing a 1950 black day suit by Balenciaga with a calf-length pencil skirt. The jacket has a small waist and round hips.

illustration of a fifties lime green coat by Madeleine Vramant

This lime green coat by Madeleine Vramant widens from waist like a full skirt.

illustration af a black afternoon dress by Jacques Fath. 1954 Fall-Winter collection

This is a 1954 black afternoon dress by Jacques Fath with a pleated top front. I’m still wondering what could be the difference between a morning dress and an afternoon dress ^^

coloring picture of a woman wearing a New Look coat

I have also drawn a coloring picture of the New Look coat by Madeleine Vramant. Click on the picture to enlarge and print it.

Finally, my review of the 50s exhibition in palais Galliera in Paris :

(The exhibition runs until November 2, 2014)

I liked the exhibition. The Haute Couture outfits are magnificent, in good condition and classified by theme: day outfits, beach outfits, evening wear, cocktail dresses… Some period videos show women wearing fifties outfits and there are drawings by designers or Fashion illustrators such as René Gruau.

It’s good to know that the exhibition is not big. I recommend it to you if you are interested in Fashion or History.

Fore more information, visit Palais Galliera Fashion Museum website

Other articles about Fifties fashion on this blog:

Fifties evening dresses

Fifties beach outfits

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A metal beam turned into a work of art by Keith Haring

The following pictures show several views of a several meter long metal beam with a Keith Haring drawing. The american artist is well known for his stylized figures who look like road signs figures. He drew on all kinds of surfaces: on tarpaulins, walls, vases or here on a metal beam.

Keith Haring, Beam, 1982

On this marker drawing, figures are running to escape barking dogs. They are fleeing but at the same time they are laughing in the face of danger: some figures are turning cartwheels and other are giving a high five.

Keith Haring, Beam, 1982

In my mind it could evoke street artists fleeing the polive, given that Keith Haring started his career by drawing on subway advertising panels in New York and he was several time arrested by the police. However this work of art is untitled so it is open to interpretation.

Keith Haring, Beam, 1982

Keith Haring used symbols. The simple figure has no distinguishing feature. He represents the human being in general. The barking dog represents an oppressor. That being said, Keith Haring never gave the keys to his visual language so that people can see what they want in it.

You can admire this decorated beam and many other works of art at the exhibition “Keith Haring The political line” in Paris until August 18 2013. I have found this exhibition very interesting. It evokes New York art scene in the eighties and shows that Keith Haring was a committed artist. Indeed he expressed himself on racism, oppression by state and religion, fear of a nuclear war and aids that was decimating New York gay community at that time. Before this exhibition I didn’t know that Keith Haring colorful and happy drawings also tackled darker and more complex subjects.

For more information:

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Urban Landscapes Exhibition in Paris

I’m not an expert on modern art. But I like some contemporary works of art. Among them I like Hélène Hurot’s paintings that always speak to my imagination.


ville verte (c) Hélène Hurot - All rights reserved
Ville verte (which means “green city”, this painting reminds me of Vancouver)
(c) Hélène Hurot
All rights reserved

This painting belongs to the series called “Urban Landscapes”. The ensemble has special meaning for me who am in North America. The paintings evoke impressive and gigantic skyscraper districts in North American big cities.

The “Urban Landscapes” exhibition runs through November 15, 2009 in Paris. I am not able to visit it because it is in France but I hope I will be luckier for the next exhibition.

Invitation to "Urban Landscapes" exhibition
Invitation to “Urban Landscapes” exhibition

For more information: Hélène Hurot’s official website


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(Royal) British (Columbia) Museum

Victoria’s Royal BC Museum welcomes an exhibition called “Treasures: The World’s Cultures from the British Museum”. More than 300 items lent by London’s British Museum are on display.

In British Columbia, there is no comparable museum to the British Museum or the Louvre with a rich collection of archæological artefacts from everywhere. The exhibition gives an overview of the British Museum thanks to works of art of all periods organized by civilization. We go from ancient Egypt to Mesopotamia, from ancient Greece to medieval Europe and from Asia to the Americas.

I visited the British Museum some time ago. I don’t know when I can return there. Thus it is fortunate that the British Museum comes to me.

The London’s museum has not lent its most famous works of art nevertheless you can see some very beautiful pieces: a 3 000-year-old Egyptian mummy, a small gold mask from Israel, the Lewis chessmen of the Middle Ages (apparently their replicas were featured in the first Harry Potter film) and a charcoal by Henri Matisse. There are also some objects made by natives of British Colombia. They were brought to England by navigator George Vancouver at the moment of his exploration of the West Coast of Canada in 1792.

The displayed objects are various but they have the craftmen’s great skills in common. I could spend hours admiring details of the objects. So I lingered in front of this Persian calligraphy by Dara Shikoh (the son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal). It is adorned with birds and flowers painted with great finesse

calligraphie de Dara Shikoh

a page from an album of calligraphy copied by Dara Shikoh (c) The Trustees of the British Museum

At different points of the exhibition, animators explain what are some objects that you can handle and watch closely. For example, an animator talks about the invention of writing while showing inscriptions on a clay tablet from Mesopotamia (where Syria and Irak are today).

The exhibition runs through Sept. 30, 2009 in Victoria, BC.

For more information, see the Museum website


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Actions: What You Can Do With the City


This is what you can read in capital letters on the wall at the entrance of the exhibition “
Actions: What You Can Do With the City” presented by the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal.

It sets the tone. There is no utopian project designed by an imaginative architect. All initiatives exist. They are projects initiated by ordinary people who want to improve the city where they live. This is a good example for defeatists who say “we can’t do anything”. It reminds us that we can’t just wait and hope that politicians change our environment, but it mainly teaches us that means exist to make our city a more pleasant place to live. 

The link between a city and its inhabitants is an interesting question. We generally endure our environment instead of influencing it. Cities organize public consultations on new construction projects but few people are informed about such consultations; very few people have time to participate, and those who take part in the debate often have a feeling that they are not considered.
Therefore, cities develop without their inhabitants taking part in it. And it is only afterwards that we see the result: ghettos that concentrate poverty, central business districts that are deserted late in the afternoon and express ways that raise barriers between municipal districts. 

How can we give more humanity to cities? First, by remembering that public space belongs to everyone; thus, it belongs to us. Therefore the exhibition shows projects aiming to make the city their own. I am amazed by these simple but effective ideas.

For more information:
Presentation of the exhibition

I have noted the initiatives that I like the most. If you plan to see this exhibition (which I strongly recommend), I advise you not to read what follows below, just to spring the surprise. If you don’t have the chance to come to Montreal before April 19th 2009, here are a few projects that find solutions to urban problems:

* I already knew Freecycle. People can publish an ad on Freecycle website to announce items they don’t want any more, because what they would throw away could be used by others. There is a Freecycle group in Paris and another one in Montreal among others.

* In New York, Green guerillas make “seed bombs”. Those little balls, mixtures of clay, compost and seeds can turn any empty lot into a garden.

* In Toronto, Urban Repair Squad makes stencils perforated with a bike pattern. You can use them to paint bicycle lanes where they are needed.

stencil perforated with a bike pattern
photo Sean Connors (c) creative commons

* Rebar covers parking spaces with grass in San Francisco. This project called PARK(ing) makes us realize the enormous place taken by car in cities. Can you imagine if all parking spaces were converted into gardens?

parking space converted into a garden
photo Stewf (c) creative commons

* At McGill University in Montreal, the “Edible Campus” project consists in planting a vegetable garden in containers. It adds green to a concreted corner of the campus and the crop is given to a charity that delivers meals to seniors.

* Santiago Cirugeda, an architect from Seville, wrote a book called Recetas Urbanas (urban prescriptions) that provides semi-legal strategies for housing and urban renovation. One idea is to temporarily occupy vacant lots waiting for a project or a building permit. Recycled street furniture is used to construct benches and playground equipment on the vacant lots.

vacant lot converted into a play area


There are other actions on the exhibition website. Everybody can submit an action so that it can be shown too.


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The Grace Kelly Years

I have visited “The Grace Kelly Years” exhibition in Paris. There are pictures, excerpts from her films and also personal items: letters, gowns, fashion accessories, jewelry, pressed flower arrangements… This exhibition retraces her path from respectable girl to Hollywood actress and eventually to Princess of Monaco, always with elegance.


Grace Kelly Audrey Hepburn Academy Awards 1956

Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn at the 1956 Academy Awards. photo by Alan Grant (c) Time Inc.

Grace de Monaco 1964

Grace de Monaco in 1964 (c) Archives du Palais princier. Monaco

The exhibition reinforces the Grace Kelly myth. She is portrayed as a perfect woman: perfect actress, perfect wife and mother, perfect princess, perfect friend… It could nearly make my blood run cold.

But fortunately Grace sometimes wears big short-sighted glasses or a big kitsch wig. It makes her more human and closer.

Grace de Monaco 1960

Grace de Monaco in her office in 1960 (c) Archives du Palais princier. Monaco

It was a pleasant journey to the 50’s and 60’s. After Paris, the exhibition will travel to different places including London and the United States.

For more information
many pictures of Grace on this forum

Other articles about Grace Kelly on this blog:
Grace Kelly’s halterneck top in Rear window
The height of snobbery?

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