Good morning, today we are going to explore the life of Madame Le Brun, France’s greatest royal painter. She was the friend of the rich and powerful. The run time for this documentary is 51:20.
Elisabeth Vigee LeBrun was France’s last great portrait painter. She was a child prodigy and was taught by her father. Elisabeth started painting professionally at fourteen years old. She soon became part of the court of Marie Antoinette. She painted over 660 portraits. However, due to her ties to the French court, she is forced to flee into exile. For thirteen years, she traveled around a variety of European courts. She will be met with a great deal of acclaim in the European Courts.
Her story begins with her birth. Elisabeth was born in Paris a few months before Marie Antoinette. She was sent out to the county to a trusted wet nurse. She grew up in Normandy and her father came to claim her when she was six years old. She remembers that it was hard to say goodbye to her foster family. Eventually, she grew used to the comings and goings of her family.
Her father was an artist who painted portraits. He had a large clientele. Elizabeth had an interest in portrait painting. Her father allowed her to develop her talent. Her father adored her and would allow her into his studio. She would draw in his studio under his watchful eye. Elisabeth is then sent to a boarding school. She was educated in the convent. At 11 she leaves the convent and starts training in painting. Through her father, she gained a lot of contacts in the art world. Her father suddenly fell ill and passed away.
At the age of 12, Elisabeth starts working and her talent becomes noticed. Portraits of her mother and her brother were the talk of Paris. Eventually, her mother remarried to a man Elisabeth and her brother hated. Her stepfather would take Elisabeth’s income, feeling that the money belonged to him so he uses the money for himself. Elisabeth continued to build up her client list and her fees increased. Men enjoyed looking at her, so she developed a way to keep the men’s eyes off herself. She would have their gaze up and then tell them she was working on the eyes.
Eventually, she would meet two women who would have an impact on her life. She met the Duchess of Chartres who was a patron of the arts and asked Elisabeth to paint her portrait. Elisabeth then met Queen Marie Antoinette.
Day by day, her client list grew, and her activities caught the attention of art officials. They forced her to become a member of an art guild. The Art Guild enthusiastically accepted her. She would eventually meet up with Jean Baptiste LeBrun, who would become her husband. Jean-Baptiste was a curator of various collections and was an art dealer. He was struck by the young woman and eventually Elisabeth would consent to the marriage. They were bound by their love of painting, ambition, and mutual attraction. However, they lived separate lives. He takes her on trips to Flanders and shows her the art of the Dutch Masters.
Elisabeth established a young ladies’ school to teach the ladies art. She could pass along her love of art to these students. The ladies copied the works of Elisabeth for exercise. After opening the school, she gave birth to a daughter. She enjoyed being a mother and loved that she was a recognized artist. Elizabeth was a beautiful and charming young woman and the models enjoyed her conversation. She wanted to reach the highest peaks of power and would eventually receive official entrance into the Palace of Versailles. Queen Marie Antoinette was looking for a portrait painter, and Elisabeth would fit the bill. How would this encounter change Elisabeth’s life? What sort of relationship would she have with Queen Marie Antoinette? What would be the impact of the French Revolution on Elisabeth’s life? Tune into the rest of this documentary to find out more.
This would be an excellent documentary to show to an art class as well as a history class. This was a well-done documentary on Elisabeth Vigee LeBrun.
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