Vigée Le Brun

Woman Artist in Revolutionary France

- May 15 2016

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (French, 1755–1842) is one of the finest eighteenth-century French painters and among the most important of all women artists. An autodidact with exceptional skills as a portraitist, she achieved success in France and Europe during one of the most eventful, turbulent periods in European history.

In 1776, she married the leading art dealer in Paris; his profession at first kept her from being accepted into the prestigious Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Nevertheless, through the intervention of Marie Antoinette, she was admitted at the age of 28 in 1783, becoming one of only four women members. Obliged to flee France in 1789 because of her association with the queen, she traveled to Italy, where in 1790 she was elected to membership in the Accademia di San Luca, Rome. Independently, she worked in Florence, Naples, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Berlin before returning to France, taking sittings from, among others, members of the royal families of Naples, Russia, and Prussia. While in exile, she exhibited at the Paris Salons.

She was remarkable not only for her technical gifts but for her understanding of and sympathy with her sitters. This is the first retrospective and only the second exhibition devoted to Vigée Le Brun in modern times. The eighty works on view include paintings and a few pastels from European and American public and private collections.

Exhibition Overview from the Met Museum website

Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog Vigée Le Brun  presents 85 of Vigée Le Brun’s finest paintings and drawings and details her story, portraying a talented and intelligent artist who successfully negotiated a shifting political and geographic landscape. Providing further context for the life of this extraordinary woman are essays by international experts which address topics such as her travels in exile and the position of women artists in the Salons. 

  • Painting
  • European
  • 19th Century
  • Portrait
  • Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

Exhibition Venues & Dates