Art and Books

Last month I reported back on my trip to the National Gallery with some of my favorite works of art and even tied it to an interesting book.

I thought I would dip in this national treasure again and note some interesting paintings from my most recent visit.

This 18th century French painting seems appropriate subject matter for a literary blog:

A Young Girl Reading, c. 1776
Jean-Honore Fragonard

girl reading.jpg

I also found a beautiful painting with an interesting backstory. This time it is the artist rather than the subject. First the painting:

The Marquise de Peze and the Marquise de Rouget with Her Two Children, 1787
Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun

The Marquise de Peze.jpg

It turns out Yale University press has just come out with a book on this fascinating artist: Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun – The Odyssey of an Artist in an Age of Revolution. Here is the book description from Amazon:

The foremost woman artist of her age, Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun (1755—1842) exerted her considerable charm to become the friend, and then official portraitist, of Marie Antoinette. Though profitable, this role made Vigee Le Brun a public and controversial figure, and in 1789 it precipitated her exile. In a Europe torn by strife and revolution, she nevertheless managed to thrive as an independent, self-supporting artist, doggedly setting up studios in Rome, Naples, Venice, Milan, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and London. Long overlooked or dismissed, Vigee Le Brun’s portraits now hang in the Louvre, in a room of their own, as well as in all leading art museums of the world.

This gripping biography tells the story of a singularly gifted and high-spirited woman during the revolutionary era and explores the development and significance of her art. The book also recounts the public and private lives of Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, connecting her with such personalities of her age as Catherine the Great, Napoleon, and Benjamin Franklin, and setting her experiences in the context of contemporary European politics and culture. A generous selection of illustrations, including sixteen of Vigee Le Brun’s portraits presented in full color, completes this exceptional volume.

Doesn’t that sound fascinating? If I didn’t have a TBR pile a mile long I might have picked this up at the NGA shop. Maybe I will get my wife to read it. She read and enjoyed my last art as history inspired book find.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

1 Comment

  1. I love paintings of women or girls reading. Doesn’t Renoir have some great ones, or am I thinking of the mother and daughter at the piano?

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