Monday, September 21, 2015

Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun - Grand Palais

The first French retrospective of portrait artist, Elisabeth Louise Vignée le Brun (1755-1864) opens Wednesday at Grand Palais - 130 works.
It's on till January 11, 2016
Clever Vignee Le Brun painted many self-portraits early days in her career - perhaps the first 'selfies'?
Her father, a pastel artist of some renown, taught her how to effectively use her tools.
Though he died when she was just 12, her path was chosen. She studied diligently the work of many artists of her time and in 1776 married Jean-Babtiste Pierre le Brun, important gallery owner of his generation(clever girl again). He continued her artistic education.
I was smitten with her repeated use of robin's egg blue throughout her early portraits.
Such a becoming color makes the sitter's cheeks look fresh and rosy.
A lovely pet portrait.
Certainly a sketch or etude. Le Brun began by doing self-portraits and portraits of her friends, mainly of the bourgeoisie. Word of her talent spread and Queen Marie-Antoinette summoned her to paint herself and her family and her reputations was established among the aristocracy.
Vigee Le Brun was also known for her paintings of 'maternal tenderness'.
'Since the Royal Academy was founded in 1648, under the Regency of Anne of Austria, only a very limited number of female artists had been admitted. As they were not allowed to draw nude males in life classes, they were excluded from the most esteemed genre, history painting, which required a perfect understanding of anatomy and the assimilation of gesture codes. Therefore, Vigée Le Brun concentrated on portraits, despite some very fine incursions into history and genre paintings. Her desire to break away from the constraints imposed upon female artists enabled her to develop very personal techniques and aesthetic criteria. She mastered the science of colours and invented a whole range of poses and costumes that brought great variety to her portraits and improvisations.' More info HERE.
The exhibit covers 2 floors. take the stairway up on the right
So as not to miss the smashing view of the Grand Palais arcades.
The Queen en famille. Red became dominant in her color palette.
When the Revolution took over, Vigee le Brun had to flee for her life.
She spent 12 years traveling around Europe, even to Russia, before returning to France.

Lovely small pastel landscape sketches..
Vigee le Brun knew how to capture those Paris clouds.
I looked high and low in the Grand Palais gift shop for some robin's egg blue silk ribbons. Dommage
But they missed out on that detail.
They also missed out on pastel-colored meringues.
September 23 - January 11 2016 Elisabeth Vigee le Brun - Grand Palais.
More photos HERE.
Blue and pink Kitty portrait in the Metro yesterday.


  1. Maureen2:20 PM

    Carol you are so lucky! I have her most famous portrait of Marie Antoinette in my bedroom. Wish I were there to see the exhibit.

    1. There is a lot of information on the Grand Palais website and an app you can buy on iTunes though I'm not sure if its in English. I put up 69 photos on Flickr (link in post) and the catalog should be available soon.

    2. Maureen3:50 PM

      Thank you! Being in French is not a problem. I will check the site.

  2. I too love the blues.. how beautiful..her art is not unknown to me but I would never have known her name..
    she was so young when her dad died..people didn't live long did they?

    Visited an art store today you would highly approve of:)

    1. I highly approve of ALL art supply stores Monique :))

  3. Merci encore, Carol, for another excellent preview for a show I plan to attend when I am in Paris in October. I have been a fan of Vigée Le Brun for what seems like forever! I'm so glad she's finally getting her own show!

  4. Thank you so much for posting this and all the wonderful photos!

  5. I just adored this post! Don't you love the robins egg blue? Thanks for sharing these pretty portraits with us!

  6. Wow! How exciting to see your post featuring the art of Madame Vigee-Le Brun at the Grand Palais. Several months ago at an estate sale I acquired a very vintage (mid-1920's) copy of "The Memoirs of Madame Vigee-Le Brun" ..... had no clue who she was ..... but the many illustrations, 169 of both her art and the mode of the time period, caught my eye--even though they are all in black and white. Book binding very interesting also. Not only was she a great artist, but her writing has great style, or at least her translator, Gerard Shelley, made it appear so. Written as if you are having a personal conversation with her. Large print also, very helpful. Too bad I'm not in Paris to see the exhibit at the Grand Palais, but your color pictures are the next best thing. Maybe there will be another great exhibit going on in Paris if I return in 2016. Thanks, Carol, for a great post!

    1. hey had a memoire of hers called I believe 'Souvenirs' but not in English. I was sure it had been translated but not available at the Grand Palais. Thanks JudyMac

  7. Oh Carol, you bring so much culture to your readers every breakfast!

    Hmmmmm……I think I detect some last-minute customer service adjustment in Madam V-Le Brun's portrait of the lady in red reading music. It looks to me as if the sitter was not happy with the depiction of her frizzes, and demanded that some curls be added to her coiffure, don't you think? Or maybe hair styles changed and the sitter wanted to be ported more a la mode -- maybe the curls came from another, later paint brush? I need a forensics report on that one.

    1. I think you may be referring to ze cat non?

  8. Linda G.2:23 PM

    LOVE LOVE LOVE her work. There is a piece of her work at the Jacquemart Andre museum ( I think it’s her self- portrait)

  9. Judith2:29 PM

    Lovely blog today. If I had any Robin Egg Blue ribbon I would send it to you, just because. I did paint several rooms in my house a pale robin egg blue two years ago. With pistachio ceiling.

  10. SueNW2:31 PM

    Isn't her name "Vigée le Brun"? No "n".

    1. Fixed.
      I am the worlds worst speller though franchement I prefer it with the n.

  11. we love Vigée Le Brun - and we love your website.

    But - just FYI - you have her last name misspelled throughout -

    it’s Vigee, not Vignee

    Thanks for the photos of the exhibit - we were just in Paris for a month, and we were very sorry to have to leave before her exhibit began.

    Thanks for all your great blogging!

    1. Thank you!!
      I did get the illustration right!? Don't know why...

  12. Ann K3:08 PM

    The Blue color is sooo pretty!
    and I must say the kitty stopped my heart.

  13. Carol, I hope that lots of folks will be attending this exhibit, giving Vigee le Brun well-deserved attention. Her technique in the portraits, and also in those landscapes, is superb. As you walked through the exhibit, did you get the feeling that many of the portrait's faces has a somewhat similar appearance? (Except for the pets, of course.)


  14. Was in Paris last month and saw this exhibition coming - so disappointed to have missed it.

  15. I'm not sure that I've heard her name before, but I do recognise a number of her portraits. It looks such a fascinating exhibition. As is the Grand Palais- I haven't been there yet, well not inside. Of course it's gorgeous. You're quite right about those perfect duck egg blue ribbons.

  16. Anonymous3:15 AM

    Love to read your blog, enjoy looking at all the pictures, food and paintings that you put up. Feels like I am travelling to places with a talented artist!! Thank you.


  17. These portraits are stunning!


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