Louise-Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun was a French portraitist of 18th century born in Paris. She is famous for being the portraitist of Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France. Her personal style is considered as a mix, because her subject and colour palette can be considered similar to late Rococo while other elements are aligned with the emergence of the Neoclassical style.
She was one of the women artists that had created a name and a reputation as an artist during the Ancien Régime, she was the official portraitist of queen Marie Antoinette. Also, she enjoined the patronage of European aristocrats, actors and writers.
Many of her paintings are owned by major museums such as Musée du Louvre, Hermitage, National Gallery, MET and others in around the world. But some of her works are propriety of private collections.
In 1780 she gave birth to girl, Julie, who appeared in many of her paintings.
In 1783, Vigée Le Brun was admitted as a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, at the same day that Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. Between 1648 and 1793 only 15 women artists were granted full membership in the Académie.
As her reception piece, Vigée Le Brun submitted an allegorical painting Peace Bringing Back Abundance (La Paix qui ramène l’Abondance), instead of a portrait. The Académie did not place this painting within a standard category (history or portraiture).
Her membership in the Académie dissolved after the French Revolution because female academicians were abolished.
After the arrest of the royal family in 1789, she left France with her daughter, but her husband remained in Paris. During her exile (12 years) she lived in Italy, Austria, Russia and Germany. She returned to France in January of 1802, during the reign of Emperor Napoleon I, after a sustained campaign by her family and ex-husband.
In her later years, Vigée Le Brun purchased a house in Louveciennes (Île-de-France) where she passed her time when she was not in Paris.
She died in Paris in 1842, aged 86. She was buried at the Cemetière de Louvenciennes near her home. The epitaph on her tombstone says “Ici, enfin, je repose…” (Here, at last, I rest…).
- She was elected to Art academies in ten cities.
- She painted some 660 portraits and 200 landscapes.
- Initially, the Académie refused her because her husband was an art dealer.
- When she was in her eighties she published her memoirs in three volumes: Souvenirs.
- The first retrospective of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s work was held in 1982 at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
- In 2015/16 Les Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais in Paris held the first major international retrospective of her work. This exhibition was shown later at the Metropolitan Museum of New York and in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, both during the year of 2016.