Mini Biography: Louise Élisabeth Vigée LeBrun

Birth: April 16, 1755
Death: March 30, 1842
Nationality: French
Movement: Rococo/Neoclassic
Vigee LeBrun was born to a painter and a hairdresser in Paris and spent her primary school years away from them living with both relatives and at a convent. Despite her father’s death when she was about 12 she had later contact with several other influential French artists and was painting portraits professionally while still a teenager. She married a fellow painter and art dealer at age 21 and at 25 had her daughter Julie. In fact, it was in Vigee LeBrun’s 1786 piece entitled Self-Portrait with her Daughter, Julie that the artist broke with centuries of artistic convention and portrait tradition by painting her own teeth in an open mouth smile. She became Marie Antoinette’s official portrait painter, a position she held for 10 year. During that time Vigee LeBrun painted a great number of portraits of Antoinette including several with her children including the future King of France Louis XVII. During the French Revolution she painted in Italy, Austria, and Russia where she stayed for 6 years painting portraits of Russian nobles and royals including at least 2 of Catherine the Great’s granddaughters. She was eventually allowed to return home to France in 1804. Vigee LeBrun also traveled to a other European countries, settled a studio outside of Paris for a number of years, and published two memoirs in her early 70’s. Her work was exhibited at The Met in 2016.
Some of her notable works include: Madame Grand (1783), the aforementioned Self-portrait with Her Daughter, Julie (1786), and the double portrait of Alexandra and Elena Pavlovna completed sometime between 1795-1801. Madame Grand is pictured below and an altered version is used as the header image.
Vigée LeBrun, Louise Élisabeth. Madame Grand (1783),  Metropolitan Museum of Art.
For more information about Vigee LeBrun or to see more of her artwork visit:
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
The New York Times
The Metropolitan Museum of Art