Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Showing her Teeth

Louise-Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun  "Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat" 1782
 National Gallery, London, England 

I cannot really say anything that will add much to the the towering presence that is Louise-Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. She was one of the foremost artists of her day, and is considered one of the foremost women artists of all time. In her lifetime which spanned from 1755-1842 she completed over 600 works of art. She painted masterfully in all genres but was most noted for her portraits.

Louise-Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun  "Self-Portrait" 1790
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy
In 1787, she caused a minor public scandal by exhibiting a self-portrait in which she is shown smiling with her mouth slightly parted, in shocking disregard of painting conventions stretching back to antiquity. This painting may have been her "Madame Vigée-Lebrun et sa Fille" (1786). The court gossip-sheet Mémoires secrets commented: ‘An affectation which artists, art-lovers and persons of taste have been united in condemning, and which finds no precedent among the Ancients, is that in smiling [Madame Vigée-Lebrun] shows her teeth.’ Vigée-Lebrun ignored the scandal and what is more, continued to flagrantly show her teeth, as we can see in the above painting from 1790. 

Marie-Victoire Lemoine "The Interior of an Atelier of a Woman Painter"
1796  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Like most artists, Vigée-Lebrun also taught the craft of painting, and was a popular instructor. This painting is a tribute to Vigée-Lebrun by one of her former pupils, Marie-Victoire Lemoine (1754–1820.) It is thought to depict Vigée-Lebrun as instructress and Lemoine as pupil. if so, the difference in size of the two artists possibly is intended to convey Lemoine's humble perception of their relative artistic statures rather than any actual height difference. In 1796 Vigée-Lebrun had fled France and was living in St. Petersburg, this change necessitated by the French Revolution and her known royalist sympathies.  Lemoine loyally attempted to keep alive in France the memory of her former teacher with this touching, if slightly veiled, homage

1 comment:

Marianne said...

I love the plumed hat against the blue sky!