I’m going to be honest: when I was first told that the theme for the next edition of Faust Magazine was Graffiti, I didn’t say much, due to my abyssal lack of knowledge on the subject.
After a while spent thinking, I came to the conclusion that graffiti is nothing but a modern form of painting, and if I was to mention painting and women, or women painters, I had to focus on Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
We all know her portraits and yet her name is often ignored, and this despite the fact that Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun produced a considerable amount of works in several places, given that she travelled a lot.
We know her portraits for the simple reason that most times, if you look at a portrait of the Queen Marie-Antoinette, it was produced by her dancing paintbrush.
As the official portraitist for the Queen of France, of whom she painted about twenty portraits, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun shocked many with the then rare modernity of her work.
A modernity that appears in her career: women of her times certainly knew how to draw and paint but it was a hobby rather than a profession. Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun did not paint for fun, she was a painter to the core and the seventeen self-portraits she painted during her professional life bear witness to her quality as a woman, a painter and a human being.
In 1783, she presented her “Marie-Antoinette en robe de Mousseline à la Créole” (Marie Antoinette in a Creole Style Muslin Dress”). The painting was a scandal because the Queen was depicted wearing one of her beloved white cotton dress, which she wore at Trianon, instead of a “robe à la française” or in her official robes. The scandal was of such magnitude that Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun had to repaint her portrait with some alterations in just a few days.
One can also sense her modernity in how natural her paintings are. They’re relaxed and spontaneous, in other words the contrary of the cramped, unnatural portraits in style back then. Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s subjects were painted with their smiles, which was very surprising at the time.
Hey naturalist, humanist inclinations led her to paint scenes of the mother and child several times. These paintings are imprinted with a deep, tender maternal love, which was shocking given that back then, children often stayed with their wet nurse for the first few years of their lives and the parent-child link was no more than a social connection, devoid of the love and intensity of today.
Modernity was also present in her wardrobe. Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun chose to dress very simply for the time. The key elements in her wardrobe were white shirt-dresses with an accessory, be it a flower, feathers or bows. She quickly became the icon of ‘bohemian chic’.
She was also a modern woman insofar as she was financially independent: she earned her keep at a time when women depended on their husbands because she had to flee revolutionary France with her daughter, moving from court to court as she travelled through Europe and painted its nobility.
Thus, she was a vanguard citizen of the world.
Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun achieved everything and beyond what was in a woman’s reach during her lifetime.
This way for the full article in Faust Magazine!
September 27, 2019
Costume by Joanna Delys – Accessories by Marcel & Jeannette
Lancaster hotel in Paris
And for the backstage scenes, it’s right there: