Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France

Self Portrait with Cerise Ribbons, 1782.

When my mother was in town last week we went to the Met to see the new show Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France. I highly recommend it if you are in New York, or even if you aren’t in New York but can get here by May 15 to see it. It is the first retrospective of the French painter Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842), the artist who was most famously known as the preferred portraitist of Marie Antoinette. Many of the 80 works on display are on loan from Versailles, as well as other museums and private collectors from around the world, including Queen Elizabeth II!

This 1778 portrait of Marie Antoinette starts the show. It is HUGE!

The five portraits of Marie Antoinette on display are life-size, in gorgeous color, and amazing to see in person. My favorite was the one above, at the beginning of the show. I love how it seemed to be bathed in a kind of golden light. You can’t help but be drawn to it instantly when you enter the gallery! None of the Marie Antoinette portraits are to be photographed (though I saw some people sneaking pictures on their phones); neither are any of the portraits that came from Versailles, such as the pictures of Marie Antoinette’s children, the Madame Royale and the Dauphin, or the portrait of Marie Antoinette’s close friend the Duchesse de Polignac, below. I took this picture before I saw the “No Photos” symbol (whoops) but of course I had to share it with you!

The Duchesse de Polignac in a Straw Hat, 1782.

Madame Royale and the Dauphin Seated in the Garden, 1784.

I loved this portrait of Marie Antoinette’s first two children, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte and Louis Joseph. Look at the detailing of little Madame Royale’s dress! This photo, and the one above of Marie Antoinette in court dress, are courtesy of the Met.

Madame Jacques François Le Sèvre, 1774-78 (Vigée Le Brun’s mother).

I was very impressed by Vigée Le Brun’s artistic gifts, especially when I saw in the gallery text that she was largely self-taught. Let me tell you, that lady could paint lace, ruffles, ribbons, feathers, fur, velvet, pearls, moiré silk, satin, and stripes! I could understand why Marie Antoinette wanted her for her personal portraits since all of the Queen’s clothes (and everyone else’s for that matter) are rendered lovingly and so well in paint!

The Comtesse Du Barry in a Straw Hat, 1781.

The Comtesse Du Barry was the mistress of King Louis XV, who was the grandfather of Louis XVI. Du Barry was executed at the guillotine during the Reign of Terror, just as Marie Antoinette was.

Detail of Comte de Vaudreuil, 1784, a private patron of Vigée Le Brun.

The gentleman above was rumored to be the lover of the Duchesse de Polignac and through her tried to gain favor with the Queen, who did not like him or his ambition!

The Maréchale-Comtesse de Mailly in Van Dyck Costume, 1783.

This lady was another member of Marie Antoinette’s inner circle. According to the gallery text she was in masquerade for this 1783 portrait, since this was known as Spanish Costume. I just loved the striping effect of the slashed sleeves and the color of the feather and ribbon on her hat!

I love the slit sleeves and the color in this one.

Madame Grand, 1783.

Because of her association with the Queen, Vigée Le Brun was forced to go into exile during the terrible times of the French Revolution. She escaped from France in 1789, and continued to paint in Italy, Vienna, Russia, and Germany before finally returning home.

I found myself very drawn to the pictures she painted of her only child, her daughter Julie. She clearly adored her and she was a beautiful girl.

Julie Le Brun Looking in a Mirror, 1786.

Julie Le Brun as a Bather, 1792.

Julie Le Brun as Flora, 1799.

I hope you get a chance to see this show. Let me know what you think of it if you do. The exhibit will move to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario this summer, opening in early June.

Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France is on view at the Met until May 15, 2016.

10 comments:

GSL said...

I would love to see this!

Jill said...

If you can't make it here the show will be in Canada this summer! I think you'd like it. I did not do justice to all the paintings of men Vigee Le Brun also created. They are amazing. I think you would heartily approve! Talk about Old School...x

Rosemary Nardone said...

These are all fabulous The frames are just as gorgeous as the works of art themselves! Thank you for sharing!

Jill said...

Hi Rosemary, you didn't go to the preview of this show? I figured you were there! If you didn't attend you should see this exhibit, it is amazing, definitely my favorite in the past two years! xx

Hermesmerized™ the duchessofH said...

What a beautiful post! I would love to see this exhibit in New York; but I can definitely attend the show in Ottawa.
I can't even imagine how magical they are to see in real life.
The reason galleries don't allow flash photos of art is due to the widely held belief the UV light of a flash, deteriorates the paint. The science doesn't prove this; but it is, what it is, and the rules are not likely to ever change.

Jill said...

Hello dear Duchess! I think you will love this show, I hope you see it! I know about the UV/flash theories, though they do allow flash photography during press previews because when I attend those I can use flash to my heart's content! This particular photo ban must have something else behind it--many of the pieces are allowed to be photographed but certain paintings that are privately held or owned by certain museums had the "No Photos" symbol attached to it. I have to wonder if it's because of a licensing agreement of some sort, but the guards I asked were not sure why no photos were allowed, they were only trying to stop any from being taken! x

Rena said...

It looks like a wonderful exhibit. Thanks for sharing it on the Powers the Flower link up.

Jill said...

Hi Rena, I want to share this exhibit with everyone because it is one of the most beautiful shows I've seen in the past two years. I wish it was headed to where you are because I'd tell you to attend! xx

Happiness at Mid Life said...

Thank you for sharing the exhibit with us. I rarely go to museums but when I do, I am always amazed at the artist attention to details to paintings.

Thank you for being a part of TBT Fashion link up and hope to see you soon!

Alice
www.happinessatmidlife.com

Jill said...

Hi Alice, I am so happy to share this post with all your lovely readers that participate in your link-up, I hope some of them get to see this exhibit in person, either here in NYC or in Canada this summer! xx