Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun (16 April 1755 – 30 March 1842): Three Self Portraits

Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun was the most famous female painter of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In her portraitures she shows herself to be no retiring violet, but returns the Western male gaze in a wonderfully assertive fashion. Here she is in a self-portrait from 1782. Behold a woman of the French Enlightenment:

File:Vigee-Lebrun1782.jpg

And here she is in 1790:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        .

And here she is with her daughter Julie (1786):

File:Vigée-Lebrun, Marie Louise Elisabeth - Self-Portrait in a Turban with Her Child - 1786.PNG

Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, in her aesthetic self assertion, foreshadowed the coming of Western feminism and the expansion of universal human rights. In an era in which fundamentalists are trying to drive women out of the social sphere, and even behind veils, the gaze of Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun is part of the pushback.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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