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Fight of determined female artist

Posted February. 22, 2024 07:58,   

Updated February. 22, 2024 07:58


“The Self-Portrait with Two Pupils,” painted by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, has great significance in reflecting the training and education of female artists in 18th-century Europe. She became the first female artist who ran a studio at the Louvre and joined Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts at a time when women were deprived of opportunities to receive an art education and pursue an artistic career. How could she possibly overcome social obstacles?

Raised in a neighborhood of artists in Paris, Labille-Guiard learned from one of her neighbors and dreamed of becoming an artist. However, she was denied admission to Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts just because she was a woman. In fighting for gender equality, she nurtured young female artists and earned loyal sponsorships thanks to her incredible artistic talent.

On May 31, 1783, she earned her admission to the academy by a vote along with Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, known as Marie Antoinette d'Autriche's portrait artist. The two female artists’ joining the academy was met with male members who got so enraged that they even insulted and disparaged not only their works but also their character. They even limited quotas for women to four, the very number of female members joining at that time.

In the Salon that came right after that, Labille-Guiard published this painting to fight for women's rights. She portrays herself as a successful artist in a posh silk dress professionally handling her drawing kit in front of the easel. Her favored students, Marie-Gabrielle Capet and Marie-Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond, stand in the backdrop. The former looks at their teacher's painting, apparently in admiration, and the latter looks out from the canvas. Although younger and more attractive than their teacher, the two pupils wear a calmer and more humble dress in color and style.

How their hands are positioned is an interesting feature of this painting, with Labille-Guiard’s hands on the drawing kit, Capet’s placed on the chair, and Rosemond’s grabbing her colleague’s wrist. Connected to one another, the trio of female artists show mutual support and solidarity. Not being accepted by the academy till the last, the two young ladies were engraved as artists on the canvas for good thanks to their teacher.