Siren spotting: Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (1749–1803)
Labille-Guiard was one of the first women to become a member of the French Royal Academy and was the first female artist to receive permission to set up studio at the Louvre at a time when men dominated the art institutions and salons. A lifelong champion of women's rights, Adélaïde was a huge advocate for women to be given the same opportunities as men to become painters. She became an influential teacher herself, well known for devotion to her female pupils, most of whom went on to become painters.
MOCKED BY CRITICS
Marie Antoinette intervened on her behalf to get her a painting position at the King’s Court. She weathered constant hostility from male peers who were appalled that women could display their skills so publicly. At court she was one of only two female artists to serve the aristocrats. The other was the much younger Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun. Like many other talented women, both then and now, Adelaide suffered from allegations that she could not be capable of such brilliance and was mocked by critics who declared her friendships with men are what gave polish to her beautiful paintings. Even back then men needed to be given credit for women’s accomplishments.
She decided not to flee during the French Revolution of 1789, and stayed in France. However, she was not fully trusted due to the connections to the royal court. In 1793 her painting Reception of a Chevalier de Saint Lazare by Monsieur Grand Master for the Order was a hugely ambitious multi-figure masterpiece commissioned by the Comte de Provence, the future Louis XVI. When the Revolutionists seized the royal paintings to destroy them, her masterpiece was burned. It represented two years of here life and work and she was so devastated she never attempted another masterpiece again.
A painting by Gabriella Gonzalez Dellosso called “The Burning of Adelaide Labille-Guiard’s Masterpiece” is an amazingly sensitive work depicting how Adelaide must have felt to have her work destroyed. Adelaide is in the blue dress being held up by another female painter. You can almost feel her heartbreak and sorrow.
We honor her contributions to the art world as a painter and we also honor her for her courage. It is due to these women who came before us that we have the freedom to create the lives we want to live today.
xo, Jacci & Laura