Marie Antoinette’s portrait painter also witnessed the dying flames of court life in France and Europe.
This is the first exhibition entirely dedicated to the work of an artist who was not only Marie Antoinette’s portraitist, but also the most sought-after society painter of her time. Charming and sociable, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun used her talent to reach high society courts all over Europe. She painted their most noble scions, assuring herself a fairly fabulous lifestyle along the way.
Luscious and full of life, never rigid or formulaic, Vigée Le Brun’s portraits, though often slightly absurdly posed, all have a faint air of melancholy. With the French Revolution, Vigée Le Brun’s work became ambivalent – both witness of the end of an era, and a perpetuation of a certain type of lifestyle that had no future. Heads rolled, but portraits continued to be painted, and the second part of the exhibition traces the artist’s travels around Europe, truly in search of a lost time. The people in her portraits were staring at the end of the world they represented.
TRANSLATION: ELLEN HARDY