It happened on May 31, 1783, when two women were accepted as members of the male-dominated Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. They were Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and her rival Adelaide Labille-Guiard.
This did not mean that the academy’s discrimination towards females eased. Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun was chosen to be a court order for Marie Antoinette by the queen's order, while Adelaide Labille-Guiard was chosen by the members in resistance to the queen. At that time, the Academy had only four women members, including these two. Afterwards, it limited the quota to four to prevent more female members.
In 1785, Labille-Guiard created ‘Self-Portrait with Two Pupils’ (photo), which was exhibited at the Salon in the same year. The artist is wearing a luxurious dress, seated in front of an easel holding a brush and palette. It is a proud painting that shows that the female artist has won wealth and fame based on her talent. One thing to note is that she also dedicated a significant portion to her pupils. This reflects opposition to the academy’s female quota, hinting that there are more female painters to come.
The two pupils are Marie Gabrielle Capet and Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond. Capet admires her teacher’s painting over her shoulder while Rosemond puts her arm around her colleague’s waist as she gazes outside of the frame with a proud expression. This shows the two artists’ support for each other in a male-dominated society.
Labille-Guiard had a close relationship with her pupils treating them like family and supporting them. Unfortunately, Rosemond died while giving birth at the age of 23. Capet became a professional portrait painter taking after her teacher, and stayed with Labille-Guiard until she passed away. Labille-Guiard’s work was not recognized due to gender discrimination at that time, but she was a great teacher to her pupils.