Arts Everyday Living: Celebrating Women’s History–The Queen’s Artist, Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun




March is Women’s History Month and we will be featuring women artists through the centuries. A number of them are “famous,” but others have been overlooked and still being discovered. So enjoy our special online exhibition with fast facts highlights accompanying each image. Generally, the works of art will be presented chronologically.


Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun, Madame d”Aguesseau de Fresnes, 1789, oil on wood, Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Title: Madame D’Aguesseau de Fresnes, 1789

Artist: Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842)

The Consummate Portraitist and Friend of a Queen

FAST FACTS: Famed as a leading portraitist of her day, her clients included Queen Marie Antoinette;  born 1755 in Paris; her father, Louis Vigee (1715-1767) specialized in pastels; basically considered self-taught, although probably lessons from father and other painters; by mid-teens, establishing herself as successful artist; joins Academie de Saint-Luc, one of few women accepted.

Marries Jean Baptiste Pierre Le Brun (1748-1813), prestigious art dealer in Paris; only child, Jeanne Julie Louise (1780-1819) is a favorite model, both shown with her mother or alone;  Vigee Le Brun continues ascent in contemporary art world, becoming major portrait painter of Marie Antoinette, depicting her at least 30 times. also friend of the young monarch who is her age; joins the Royal Academy with support of the queen.

French Revolution forces Vigee Le Brun to flee in 1789, an exile until 1802; travels and resides in a number of countries for more than a decade including Italy, Austria, Russia, and Germany; enjoys popularity and receives commissions, her subjects often members of the aristocracy and royalty; after return, Vigee Le Brun mainly stays in France, except for trips to England and Switzerland.

In addition to producing art works, she writes her memoirs, an extensive biography and account of her times.  Lives to be 87, dies in 1842 in Paris, buried near her country home in Louveciennes (which would someday be a site of Impressionist landscapes by Monet and Sisley, among others).

Created a number of self-portraits, an unforgettable personal visual record. 

Sources include: Making Her Mark: A History of Women Artists in Europe, 1400-1800, websites of National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and National Gallery of Art, London, UK.



In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or acny of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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