earlywomenmasters.net » Women at the Easel

Self Portrait by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (with Two Pupils),
1785, France (Zoom painting detail)
Notes from the

"Adélaïde Labille-Guiard [1749-1803]was apprenticed to a miniaturist and later, in 1769, studied pastel with Maurice Quentin de La Tour. The rich palette and fine detail in the present picture, one of the earliest of her major works in oil, reflect her earlier training. In 1783, when Labille-Guiard and Vigée Le Brun were admitted to the French Royal Academy, the number of women artists eligible for membership was limited to four, and this canvas, which was exhibited to an admiring audience at the Salon of 1785, has been interpreted as a propaganda piece, arguing for the place of women in the Academy. The artist's fashionable dress asserts her femininity and the feminist mood is emphasized by the presence of her pupils and the statue of the Vestal Virgin in the background.

"Labille-Guiard achieved a certain success at court and, having painted a number of portraits of the aunts of Louis XVI, she came to be known as "Peintre des Mesdames". However, she sympathized with the Revolution and, unlike Vigée Le Brun, remained in France throughout her life."

Madame Marie Adelaide de France
Portrait of Madame Marie-Adélaïde de France (1732–1800)
by Adelaide Labille-Guiard, pastel on paper, ca. 1787

Notes from the

"A lifelong champion of women's rights, Labille-Guiard worked toward reforming the Academy's policies toward women. Unlike Vigée-LeBrun, she supported the French Revolution and remained in Paris during this tumultuous era, winning new patrons and creating portraits of several deputies of the National Assembly. Although she also produced some history paintings, it was with her carefully crafted portraits that Labille-Guiard made her mark."

Notes from the
by Laura Auricchio

"[In Labille-Guiard's Self Portrait with Two Pupils], the reversed canvas [on the easel at the left] is crucial to the painting's aim of generating interest, as the intrigue of the unseen work in enhanced by the students' differing impressions. Marie Gabrielle Capet, on the right, seems engrossed in the emerging painting with her gaze focused and her lips parted. Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond, on the left, peers out of the picture at the object or person whose image is being captured. Together, they compare original to painted copy, but the viewer can only speculate about what Labille-Guiard is painting."

Self-portrait (at the Easel), 1783
by Labille-Guiard's pupil, Marie-Gabrielle Capet (1761-1818)
(she appears in Labille-Guiard's Self Portrait above, far right)

by Margaret Barlow
(includes a number of oversize color
reproductions suitable for framing)

"Adelaide Labille-Guiard and Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun were admitted to the Royal Academy on the same day in 1783. Although both had royal patrons their politics differed: Labille-Guiard was sympathetic to the Revolution and remained in France during the turmoil, which Vigée-Lebrun's royalist sympathies caused her to leave France.

"Labille-Guiard began her training with a miniaturist whose shop was near her father's haberdashery, but it was her mastery of pastels that gained her early acclaim. A devoted teacher who fought quietly to increase the presence of women in the Academy, Labille-Guiard succeeded, if only symbolically by including two of her in her commanding 1785 Portrait of the Artist and Two Pupils [illustrated top]."

earlywomenmasters.net | Women Artists at the Easel 1540-1980 | Next