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Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

(1755—1842) French painter


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(b Paris, 16 Apr. 1755; d Paris, 30 Mar. 1842).

French portrait painter, daughter of the pastellist LouisVigée (1715–67), from whom she received her first lessons. Renowned for her beauty, wit, and charm as well as for her talent, she had a highly successful career, with many eminent sitters, notably Queen Marie Antoinette; she portrayed the queen numerous times (initially in 1778, KH Mus., Vienna) and they became friends. On the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 she left France with her daughter, leaving behind her husband, the picture dealer Jean-Baptiste Lebrun, to whom she was unhappily married. She worked in Italy (1789–93), Vienna (1793–4), and St Petersburg (1795–1801), before returning to Paris in 1802. Disliking the Napoleonic regime, she worked in England in 1803–5, but then settled permanently in France, thereafter making only short visits abroad. She received distinguished patronage wherever she went and was admitted to several academies. Her work is graceful, charming, pleasingly sentimental, and delicately executed. Her memoirs (3 vols., 1835–7) give a lively picture of the Europe of her day as well as an account of her own works, and vividly demonstrate what a redoubtable woman she was: ‘on the day that my daughter was born I never left my studio and I went on working…in the intervals between labour pains.’

Subjects: Art.


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