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Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun

French Neoclassical Portrait Painter


Artistically and stylistically influenced the following painters and art periods - Francois Boucher, Jacques-Louis David, Raphael, Michelangelo, Nicolas Poussin and Piero della Francesca

Education - learned to the basics of painting in her fathers (Louis Vigée) studio, he chocked to death on a fish bone when she just 13. She is primary self-taught.

Cause of Death - Old Age, she was 87

Marie Louise Elizabeth Vigee le Brun Quotations

"We reached Naples at about three or four o'clock. I cannot describe the impression I received upon entering the town. That burning sun, that stretch of sea, those islands seen in the distance, that Vesuvius with a great column of smoke ascending from it, and the very population so animated and so noisy, who differ so much from the Roman that one might suppose they were a thousand miles apart." -- Elizabeth Vigee le Brun Quote from her Diary

"We even saw from a distance young men naked on horseback, who were thus bathing with their horses. In any other country one would have been shocked by this, but the Russian people are really primitively ingenuous. In the winter husband, wife and children sleep together on the stove; if the stove is not large enough, they lie on wooden benches lining their hut, wrapped up simply in their sheepskins. These good people have kept the customs of the ancient patriarchs." -- Elizabeth Vigee le Brun Quote from her Diary

"The Empress Maria was a very handsome woman; her plumpness kept her fresh.  "-- Elizabeth Vigee le Brun

"The beauty of her heavenly face, that expressed benevolence and goodness, and whose features were so regular and delicate, the loveliness of her figure, neck, and arms, the exquisite freshness of her complexion – all was enchanting beyond anything imaginable." -- Elizabeth Vigee le Brun Quote from her Diary

"I will not attempt to describe my feelings at setting foot on the soil of France, from which I had been absent twelve years. I was stirred by terror, grief and joy in turn. I mourned the friends who had died on the scaffold; but I was to see those again who still lived. " -- Elizabeth Vigee le Brun Quote from her Diary

Description and Origins of the Neoclassic Art Movement

The period is called neoclassical because its artists looked back to the art and culture of classical Greece and Rome.  The spread of Neoclassical Art was primarily inspired by recent roman archeological excavations, including Pompeii and by gay art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann. In his scholarly writings, Winckelmann, gushed over the homoeroticism of Greco-Roman art, writing explicit descriptions of erotic nude male sculptures from Classical Antiquity thereby encouraging an interest in Greek antiquities. Neoclassical art is characterized by its classical form and structure, clarity, and to an degree, realism.

French Neoclassism painters emphasis's patriotism, as well as a sense of civility and honorableness. The movement was particularly connected with the beliefs of the French Revolution and was seen as anti-aristocratic. The fantasy-based aristocratic art of the Rococo seemed an insult upon the rights of men and was vilified by critics and the general public.  In an age of sweeping revolution and transformation Neoclassicism became the art of change.

French painter Jacques-Louis David was infatuated with the former grandeur of Rome and even painted the tiny, pudgy  Napoleon as a magnificent warrior astride a white stallion.  Mythology folklore, legends, and the calm grandeur of a bygone era were all favored themes for Neoclassical painters.

Famous Artists of the Neoclassical Movement

James Barry Irish, 1741-1806
Antonio Canova Italian, 1757-1822
Jacques-Louis David French, 1748-1825
Jules Elie Delaunay French, 1828-1891
Francois Gerard French, 1770-1837
Antoine-Jean Gros  French, 1771-1835
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres French, 1780-1867
Angelica Kauffmann Swiss, 1741-1807
Rembrandt Peale American, 1778-1860
Bertel Thorvaldsen Danish, 1770-1844
John Trumbull American, 1756-1843
Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun   French, 1755-1842

Benjamin  West American, 1738-1820

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