After struggling to exist as artists, women painters of the turn of the 19th century have begun to set records. This is not revenge, but well-deserved recognition.
Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842), Portrait of a Young Woman in a Red Dress, Presumed to be Caroline de Rivière, pastel, 43.5 x 32 cm (17.1 x 12.6 in).
Paris, Drouot, March 23, 2018. Maigret (Thierry de) auction house. Mr Millet.
We only need to recall the difficulties women artists had in gaining acceptance to the Académie and participating in the Salons of the final years of the aptly named Ancien Régime (Old Regime, the Kingdom of France before 1789) to appreciate how far they have come in a short time. The French Revolution certainly played its part, liberating them and enabling them to exercise their art and tackle other subjects than genre scenes and portraits of children or charming young folk. For some time now, more of their works have been appearing on the market—and not only those of the most prominent, led by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842). Art historians have done a fine job: many names have now emerged from unjust obscurity and are displayed for all to see, with prices to match. They provide consummate proof of how much women contributed to the fine arts—and even more to the burgeoning changes in French society as a whole— between 1780 and 1830. The Musée du Luxembourg in Paris is highlighting many of them this spring. The exhibition " Peintres femmes, 1780-1830 – Naissance d’un combat" ("Women Painters, 1780-1830: Birth of a combat") was due to open on March 3, but a little patience is still needed: a virtue these "revolutionaries" learned to cultivate!
Marie-Élisabeth Lemoine (1761-1811), Portrait of a boy with a toy cart, blowing bubbles , 1791, oil on canvas, 80.5 x 90 cm (31.7 x 35.4 in). Paris, Drouot, March 27, 2019. De Baecque & Associés auction house. Mr. Auguier. Result: €83,820
The Forerunners The first woman admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et…
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