Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and Amazing Women in Her Portraits

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Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and women in her portraits should be a reference for every art-lover. The French painter – also known as Madame Le Brun – is considered to have placed her style somewhere between that of a Rococo and Neoclassical artist. As the daughter of an artist, the talent for painting was seemingly in her blood. Already as a teenager, she was recognized for her aptitude and soon began portraying famous people, having learned from masters such as Gabriel François Doyen, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and Joseph Vernet.

Vigée Le Brun portraits
Élisabeth Vigée-LeBrun, Self Portrait with Straw Hat, 1783, National Gallery, London, UK.

King Louis XVI of France invited the 23-year old artist to Versailles, where she began portraying Marie Antoinette, becoming her favorite portraitist for over ten years. During a six-year period, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun created more than 30 paintings of the queen and her family, becoming the official painter of the royal family almost until their demise during the French Revolution. Thanks to Vigée Le Brun’s delicate paintings, Marie Antoinette was able to promote an image of herself as a loving wife and mother, having been accused by critics of sexual infidelity, claims which appear to be substantiated by contemporary research.

Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, Archduchess Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, 1778, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun And The Women In Her Portraits
Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Archduchess Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, 1778, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Amongst the figures in hundreds of paintings by Vigée Le Brun, we can also see other royalty, writers, and influential people of the late 18th and early 19th centuries from around Europe, as she was forced to work in exile from France for many years after the revolution. Famous subjects included Poland’s last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, as well as Aniela Radziwiłłówna and Helena Potocka. She also portrayed Comtesse de la Châtre and Princess Ana Gruzinsky-Golitsyna.

Princess Galitzyna, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1797, Baltimore Museum of Art, Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun and the Woman in her portraits
Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Princess Galitzyna, 1797, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Portrait of Aniela Czartoryska nee Radziwiłł, Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, 1802, National Museum of Warsaw, Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun and the Women in her Portraits
Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Portrait of Aniela Czartoryska nee Radziwiłł, 1802, National Museum of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland.

Comtesse de la Chatre, Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, 1789, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun and the Women in her Portraits
Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Comtesse de la Chatre, 1789, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.

It is noteworthy that Vigée Le Brun was one of the very few artists of her time who could support herself from her work as an esteemed and sought-after painter. During her travels, she was inducted into the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, became a member of the Société pour l’Avancement des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, and joined the Academy of Fine Arts of Saint Petersburg.

The women in her paintings are quite idealized. All look blossoming and beautiful, introduced to the public in rich colors. More than 650 portraits and 200 landscapes painted by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun survive.

In 2015 Arnaud Xainte directed a movie about the great French painter called Le fabuleux destin de Élisabeth Vigee Le Brun. Fortunately, the entire movie is available online and you can watch it below:

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