Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun: The Odyssey of an Artist in an Age of Revolution by Gita May
She painted portraits for royalty in France, Italy, Russia and England. At the time of the French revolution, she had to flee at night in disguise along with her daughter (Julia) to Italy before they’d give her the guillotine for having lots of friends of nobility. Reading this book about her was a good way to learn about the culture of the time period of the French Revolution from one artists life. here’s Wikipedia’s page on Elisabeth Vigge Le Brun She was the most famous female portrait painter of the 18th century.
I thought her whole life was interesting and this book had special meaning to me since I started out painting portraits in my 20’s and should have kept it up. I understood her love of long walks because standing in one position painting at an easel for long periods of time makes you need long walks outdoors in the fresh air.
Some of her paintings
oil on canvas
Barber Institute of Fine Arts, England
Princess Eudocia Ivanovna Galitzine as Flora, 1799
What amazed me was how much she traveled back in those days under primitive conditions. The roads in Russia were very crude and bumpy. Wasn’t all that safe either, especially for a female traveling alone, but what a full life she had. She was only 13 when her beloved father died, and he too was a portrait painter. Here’s a comprehensive account of her life
When she returned to France after the revolution, gone were the white wigs and lavish male aristocrat attire. She missed it. She was at some play in a big theater when she noticed, looking around the audience, the gloomy dark suits on the men instead of the former white wigs and frilly costumes.
After reading this book I watched both The Tale of Two Cities; the 1935 version from MGM and the 1958 one. The 1935 movie is on U tube. Reading this book and watching the two movies helped me to see how crazed the people were, but they were hungry while the nobility had excess. I’d like to read more on the French revolution to understand it better, yet this book and two movies is a good starting point.