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Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Vigée-Lebrun, Élisabeth (ālēzäbĕtˈ vēzhāˈ-ləbröNˈ) [key], 1755–1842, French portrait painter; pupil of her father, the painter Louis Vigée. She was influenced by Greuze. Summoned to Versailles in 1779 to paint Marie Antoinette, she embarked upon a long and successful career. She became painter and friend to the queen; two of her best-known portraits are of Marie Antoinette—one holding a rose and the other with her two children (both: Versailles). At the outbreak of the Revolution, Vigée-Lebrun escaped to Italy and in the following years visited Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Dresden, and London, finding acclaim and prominent sitters everywhere. Her representations show great elegance and facility of execution. Well known are her portraits of Mme de Staël, C. J. Vernet, and two of herself and her daughter (Louvre). She is also highly esteemed for her work in pastel. Her lively three-volume set of memoirs were published in 1835–37.

See Memoirs of Madame Vigé-Lebrun (tr. 1903, 1927, 1989); biographies by A. Goodden (1998) and G. May (2005); studies by J. Baillio (1983) and M. D. Sheriff (1996).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: European Art, 1600 to the Present: Biographies


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