Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

The Odyssey of an Artist in an Age of Revolution

Gita May

View Inside Price: $50.00


October 6, 2005
256 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
18 b/w + 16 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300108729
Cloth

The foremost woman artist of her age, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755—1842) exerted her considerable charm to become the friend, and then official portraitist, of Marie Antoinette. Though profitable, this role made Vigée Le Brun a public and controversial figure, and in 1789 it precipitated her exile. In a Europe torn by strife and revolution, she nevertheless managed to thrive as an independent, self-supporting artist, doggedly setting up studios in Rome, Naples, Venice, Milan, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and London. Long overlooked or dismissed, Vigée Le Brun’s portraits now hang in the Louvre, in a room of their own, as well as in all leading art museums of the world.

This gripping biography tells the story of a singularly gifted and high-spirited woman during the revolutionary era and explores the development and significance of her art. The book also recounts the public and private lives of Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, connecting  her with such personalities of her age as Catherine the Great, Napoleon, and Benjamin Franklin, and setting her experiences in the context of contemporary European politics and culture. A generous selection of illustrations, including sixteen of Vigée Le Brun’s portraits presented in full color, completes this exceptional volume.

Gita May is professor of French literature, Columbia University. She has taught and published extensively on late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century French literature, art, and culture.

“…fluently written in a style well suited to her subject… The book is well ordered and balanced, with apt quotations… and judiciously chosen illustrations…” - Hugh Belsey, The Art Newspaper

“A well-written and engaging introduction to the life, times, and art of Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, certainly the most traveled and most cosmopolitan artist of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. May’s enthusiasm for her subject and sympathetic treatment of her Memoires provide a compelling narrative and bring into sharper focus the remarkable energy and ambition of Marie Antoinette’s most talented portraitist.”—Colin B. Bailey, Chief Curator, The Frick Collection

 

“This is a sparkling book and a wonderful read for anyone interested in the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette, or French art and history. Gita May tells the colorful story of a woman who was a monarchist in her political views but, in her personal life, a revolutionary.”—Susan Dunn, Professor of Humanities, Williams College

"A biography as entrancing as its impressive subject. . . . Like her irresistible subject, May is a superb portraitist, rendering with a rich palette and a light touch the exhilarating life of a remarkable artist and human being."—Booklist (starred review)

"[May] effectively conveys that, for Vigée Le Brun, matters such as politics, friendship, and love were subordinate to an absolute focus on honing her skill."—New Yorker

'[A] balanced and highly enjoyable biography...' - Contemporary Review

"A straightforward biography that also provides a wealth of clarifying context. . . . What makes May's book valuable is the careful sifting of detail about the environment of late 17th- and early 18th-century France. . . . [This book] will appeal to readers interested in coming to terms with the historical and ongoing marginalization of so-called women artists."—Bloomsbury Review
The Social Contract and The First and Second Discourses

Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Edited and with an Introduction by S

...
View details