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Les Influenceuses: The Art and Fashion of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and Adélaïde Labille Guiard

  • Wednesday, May 18 at 11:30 a.m.

  • $45 On-Site • $25 Online

  • Free for Students*

  • On-Site & Online

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At the Salon of 1783, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun debuted a portrait of Marie Antoinette wearing a white chemise dress, akin to a petticoat, cinched at her natural waist with a yellow ribbon. Deemed inappropriate for someone of the queen’s station, the portrait was quickly removed from the Salon walls. The damage, however, was already done. Of the many names these dresses would take on in the decades that followed, the epithet chemise à la reine permanently linked fashionable cotton dresses to Marie Antoinette. Rarely, however, is the influence of the portrait’s painter, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, acknowledged despite the fact that she was herself a leading figure of Neoclassical and late-eighteenth-century fashion.

This lecture will take up the careers of Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and her colleague and rival Adélaïde Labille Guiard and examine the ways in which they were true influenceuses of their age. In the press, their personal lives were gossiped about while their art was both lauded and lambasted. These women not only defied gendered expectations of the day but became critical political and cultural actors through their art and participation in intellectual social circles across Europe. Two of the most recognized female painters in late-eighteenth-century France, the careers of Vigée-Lebrun and Labille-Guiard also show us how other female artists (of which there were many!) were able to navigate their careers through participation in alterative art spaces and the strategic deployment of dress.

Alicia Caticha (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University. She specializes in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European sculpture and decorative arts with a particular focus on issues of materiality, colonialism, and popular culture. Her current research concerns the eighteenth-century French sculptor Étienne-Maurice Falconet and the replications and reverberations of his work in porcelain and sugar sculpture. She has published on the history of fashion from the eighteenth-century to the present day in Journal18, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, and American Quarterly. Caticha’s research has been supported by the Center for the Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Decorative Arts Trust, and the Newberry Library.

*Students with IDs on-site / .edu addresses online. High school, college, or university.

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