Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun

Meet the painter who

had to flee

the French Revolution

Meet the painter who had to flee the French Revolution

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, 1782 is housed at the National Gallery in London.

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Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, 1782 is housed at the National Gallery in London.

Did You Know?

1755

Élisabeth Louise Vigée was born in Paris on April 16, 1755. Her mother was a hairdresser and her father was a portraitist. It is her father who initiated her to art .

1755

Élisabeth Louise Vigée was born in Paris on April 16, 1755. Her mother was a hairdresser and her father was a portraitist. It is her father who initiated her to art .

1760s

In her early teens, she starts painting portraits professionally. 

Her studio was seized for her practicing without a license , an event that led her to apply to the Académie de Saint-Luc , an organization that attracted artists who did not have access to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture . This was particularly the case for women artists (the Académie de Saint-Luc counted 130 female members in the 18th century).

1760s

In her early teens, she starts painting portraits professionally. 

Her studio was seized for her practicing without a license , an event that led her to apply to the Académie de Saint-Luc , an organization that attracted artists who did not have access to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture . This was particularly the case for women artists (the Académie de Saint-Luc counted 130 female members in the 18th century).

1776

She marries Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, a painter and art dealer .

1776

She marries Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, a painter and art dealer .

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Self-Portrait with Her Daughter Julie , 1786

Self-Portrait with Her Daughter Julie , 1786

1780

She gives birth to a daughter , Jeanne Lucie Louise, whom she called Julie and nicknamed “Brunette”

Her Self-Portrait with Her Daughter Julie caused a minor public scandal in 1787 because Élisabeth depicted herself smiling with her mouth opened and showing her teeth , a direct contravention of traditional painting conventions.

1780

She gives birth to a daughter , Jeanne Lucie Louise, whom she called Julie and nicknamed “Brunette”

Her Self-Portrait with Her Daughter Julie caused a minor public scandal in 1787 because Élisabeth depicted herself smiling with her mouth opened and showing her teeth , a direct contravention of traditional painting conventions.

1780

She receives the patronage of Queen Marie Antoinette . She painted over 30 portraits of the queen and her family leading to the perception that she was the official portraitist of Marie Antoinette.

1780

She receives the patronage of Queen Marie Antoinette . She painted over 30 portraits of the queen and her family leading to the perception that she was the official portraitist of Marie Antoinette.

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Portrait of Marie Antoinette by Vigée Le Brun, 1778

Portrait of Marie Antoinette by Vigée Le Brun, 1778

1783

She is received as a member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture on the same day as her rival Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. She had been initially refused based on the grounds that her husband was an art dealer. But Louis XVI gave an order to the Académie to remove that rule after being pressured by his wife, Marie Antoinette .

1783

She is received as a member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture on the same day as her rival Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. She had been initially refused based on the grounds that her husband was an art dealer. But Louis XVI gave an order to the Académie to remove that rule after being pressured by his wife, Marie Antoinette .

1789

After the arrest of the royal family during the French Revolution, she fled France with her daughter , Julie, for fear of being arrested as a sympathizer of the royal family. In her 12-year absence from France, she lived and worked in Italy (1789–1792), Austria (1792–1795), Russia (1795–1801), and Germany (1801).

1789

After the arrest of the royal family during the French Revolution, she fled France with her daughter , Julie, for fear of being arrested as a sympathizer of the royal family. In her 12-year absence from France, she lived and worked in Italy (1789–1792), Austria (1792–1795), Russia (1795–1801), and Germany (1801).

1802

She returns to France after her name was removed from the list of counter-revolutionary émigrés.

1802

She returns to France after her name was removed from the list of counter-revolutionary émigrés.

1835-37

In her 80s, she published her memoirs in three volumes (Souvenirs).

1835-37

In her 80s, she published her memoirs in three volumes (Souvenirs).

1842

She died in Paris on March 30, 1842 at the age of 86.   She created some 660 portraits and 200 landscapes in her lifetime. 

1842

She died in Paris on March 30, 1842 at the age of 86.   She created some 660 portraits and 200 landscapes in her lifetime. 

From Our Collection

From life at court to life in exile , Madame Le Brun made her mark wherever she went !   Browse our selection of art history gifts and games featuring work by famed portraitist, Vigée Le Brun.

The Grand Museum of Art

$49.00 USD

100 Masterpieces Scratch Poster

$20.00 USD

Memory Game - 20 Women in Art 

$16.00 USD


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