Monday, June 15, 2009

Elizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

At the market
The very beginnings of a portrait
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2009
(Sorry the painting is still wet. I am
blocking in her face and the basic shapes of
her clothes. You can see that I haven't
finished the glasses at all, because I
think the features in the face will still
move around for another couple
of sessions.)

One painter who's had a profound effect on me is the
portrait painter, Vigée Le Brun, who produced
at least 600 portraits in her lifetime. (I have seen
the count as high as 1500). These were large,
detailed, fine art pieces.

Her advice to portrait painters was excellent. Some of
her tips seem strange today when portraits can go
in any direction, but her advice on being ready and
set up when your clients arrive is still 100% right.

She is the artist who taught me to have two hour portrait
sessions because if you ask for a longer session, "their
expression will change noticeably, a situation to be avoided
at all costs."

I'm certain she is still making an impression on many
portrait painters and she lived from 1755 - 1842.

No! I don't paint like her. The style is not right for
2009. But I admire her paintings very much, and
am always amazed when I think of her dedication
and phenomenal output.

The painting tonight is the start of a portrait commission.
You may recognize the face from an earlier sketch. I am
starting to block in the shapes of the face, and it is just the
beginning. The woman's face is a delightful combination
of a mature woman and the sparkle and joie de vivre of a
young girl. She is great fun, and I'm sure finds it hard to
sit still.
Have an honouring-past-painters day.


Anonymous said...

Barbara, I really enjoyed reading about Elizabeth Louise. Her tips are wonderful and I thank you for sharing this with us.
Reading her advice is like connecting back 200 years to a fellow artist.

laura said...

It would be very interesting to read portrait painters talking about the particular issues they face--re painting and representation.
PS Thank you for the mantra ... I will rededicate myself to it!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Flora,

When I look at her self-portraits I
wish I had known her. Glad you
enjoyed meeting her. I think she was


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Laura,

I've made a similar pact -- to rededicate myself to the mantra. It's true. This woman seemed so spirited -- and she was so ahead of her time, supporting her family with her art as a young girl.

She is a good reason to get back to the easel. Got to go.

Take care,


Melinda said...

Great link, Barbara! Thanks for sharing it. I really enjoyed reading about her approach and discipline.

This painting is coming along well! Love the colors, love the composition. It's fun to check back in to see how you finish the portraits, too.

Yes, back to work...

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Melinda,

Thanks I'm glad you like my friend, Vigée. I'm also glad you like my
paintings when they're done. This one is going to be fun because she wants to be surrounded by the vintage fabric she sells.

Lots of colour

L.Holm said...

Hi, Barbara - I love Vigee Le Brun's work, also. I've studied the subtle color transitions in her skin tones with awe. She was a remarkable painter at an amazing time in history.
I agree it's not important to paint in someone's style to learn valuable lessons from them. I love reading about other painters. Makes me feel we're all tied together through history.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Liz,

And we are tied together aren't we. In the blog world too -- we are making history together. I really like that fact.

I'm glad you are inspired by Vigée. I must take her biography with me on holiday this year. I'd like to know more.

Take care,


Laurel Daniel said...

I LOVE these colors. Just so very delicious... I know you aren't done, but I love it now!!! XOXO

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Laurel,

Thanks a lot. I am glad you like the colours. There will be a lot more colour because the subject wants to be
surrounded by the vintage quilts and fabric she sells, so it's going to be bright.


Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!