A French painter of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, notable for her compelling portrait
Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée was born in 1755, daughter of a painter. In 1776 she married the picture-dealer J.B.P. LeBrun. After the Revolution she went first to Italy, then toured Europe, arriving in London in 1802 and returning to Paris after the Peace of Amiens in 1805. She died in 1842.
She moved in high society. Her 1779 portrait of Marie Antoinette led to many royal portraits and to friendship with the Queen. In London she painted the Prince of Wales and Lord Byron among others.
Vigée-LeBrun allied technical perfection of the clothes and setting with an intimate view of the sitter's personality. I feel I know these people by how she's shown them, as I do with Rembrandt, Murillo, and Van Dyke. The National Gallery in London has an enchanting self-portrait in a gay straw hat, and as she was very beautiful, she makes an excellent subject. The picture dominates the whole room for me.
On the Web, see http://www.bertc.com/subtwo/vigee.htm for a portrait of the Comtesse de la Châtre, pausing in her reading, hands delicately crossed, to regard the viewer with a somewhat world-weary but not unkindly gaze.
There's a self-portrait with her daughter at
where the lovely young child seems as aware of the act of painting as her mother. There are copies of the London self-portrait here and there on the Web but I haven't found a good one yet.
A rather less successful, more posed and less personal one is of a stiff Marie Antoinette and her children, at
A good collection of pictures (thanks Chras4 for pointing me to these) is at http://www.batguano.com/Vigeegallery1.html.