Famous Female French Artists And Their Iconic Paintings
Despite significant restrictions facing female artists in France, many talented and determined women nonetheless achieved professional success and left a lasting artistic legacy.
From Berthe Morisot's boldly painted portraits to Rosa Bonheur's captivating explorations of nature, French female artists have made their mark with some of the most iconic and timeless paintings in art history.
Here are some of the French women artists ranked among the best in France.
Famous French Female Artists
- Berthe Morisot
- Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
- Suzanne Valadon
- Adélaïde Labille-Guiard
- Blanche hoschedé monet
- Anne Vallayer-Coster
- Henrietta Johnston
- Rosa Bonheur
- Marie Bracquemond
- Sonia Delaunay
- Marie-Guillemine Benoist
- Camille Claudel
Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot was a French painter who was a member of the Impressionists, a group of painters in Paris. Morisot showed for the first painting in the prestigious Salon de Paris in 1864. The Salon was the official yearly exhibition of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris, sponsored by the government and evaluated by academicians.
Her art was selected for show in six following Salons until, in 1874, she joined the "rejected" Impressionists, including Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley, in the first of their own exhibitions. It was held at the photographer Nadar's studio.
Between 1874 and 1886, Morisot took part in all but one of the eight impressionist exhibits that followed. Morisot married Eugène Manet, the brother of Édouard Manet, a friend, and coworker. Along with Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt, she was named one of "les tres grandes dames" of Impressionism by Gustave Geffroy in 1894.
Summer's Day by Berthe Morisot
The artwork was created in the Bois de Boulogne and features two women seated in a rowboat.
In this artwork, Morisot used an uncommon color pallet. She chose cerulean blue to paint the woman on the left's dark blue coat, a color rarely utilized by Impressionists. Emerald green, viridian, lead white, and cadmium yellow are used to paint the green foliage. At the time, cadmium yellow was not frequently utilized.
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Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
Madame Le Brun, also known as Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, was a late-eighteenth-century French portrait painter. Her artistic style is widely regarded as part of the post-Rococo period, including aspects of Neoclassicism.
Although her subject matter and color palette are Rococo, her style corresponds to the advent of Neoclassicism. By serving as Marie Antoinette's portrait painter, Vigée Le Brun made a name for herself in Ancien Régime society.
She was elected to art academies in 10 locations and received sponsorship from European aristocracy, performers, and writers. 660 portraits and 200 landscapes were painted by Vigée Le Brun.
Her paintings are owned by major museums, including the Louvre, Hermitage Museum, National Gallery in London, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and many more collections in continental Europe and the United States, in addition to numerous private collections.
Marie Antoinette and Her Children by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
Louis XVI commissioned Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun to paint an official portrait of Marie Antoinette, to improve public perception of the monarch. The painting depicts Marie Antoinette as a monarch and, more significantly, as a mother, with her children surrounding her and wearing minimal jewelry.
To further elicit pity from the audience, Vigée Le Brun painted an empty cradle in place of the queen's youngest child, Sophie-Béatrice, who died just before the picture was finished. It was supposed to be shown for the first time at the Salon in August 1787. Vigée Le Brun, however, refused to transport the picture due to Marie Antoinette's unpopularity at the time and concerns that it would be damaged. Despite this, the administration demanded that she do so, and the picture was displayed to mixed reviews.
Symbolism abounds in the painting. Its overall design is influenced by Renaissance images of the Holy Family, as suggested by Jacques-Louis David, a well-known contemporaneous painter.
There are other references to Marie Antoinette that are more specific to her, such as the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles behind her or the garment she is wearing, which is similar to one Marie Leszczyska wore in a photograph.
On the right, there's also a jewelry cabinet, which recalls Cornelia, an ancient Roman who reportedly declared her children were her jewels. This last reference emphasizes Marie Antoinette's image as a mother, prioritizing her own children over financial considerations such as jewelry, particularly in light of the Diamond Necklace controversy.
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Suzanne Valadon, born Marie-Clémentine Valadon in Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Haute-Vienne, France, was a French painter. Valadon was the first woman to be accepted into the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1894. Maurice Utrillo, a painter, was born to her.
Valadon worked as an artist for approximately 40 years. Female nudists, portraits of women, still lifes, and landscapes were among the subjects of her drawings and paintings, such as Joy of Life (1911).
She never went to the academy and was never bound by a set of rules. She served as a model for several well-known painters. Valadon appeared in Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Dance at Bougival (1883) and Dance in the City (1883), as well as Henri de Toulouse-Suzanne Lautrec's Valadon (1885).
Joy of Life by Suzanne Valadon
The Joy of Life by Suzanne Valadon displays a landscape with four nude and seminude women being watched by a nude male. André Utter, Valadon's lover, modeled the nude male.
They met through her son, Maurice Utrillo, and Utter modeled for Valadon in several of his works, including Adam and Eve (1909) and Casting the Net (1910). The notion of "women as nature" is central to Joy of Life, which was a popular topic at the time.
Adélade Labille-Guiard, also known as Adélade Labille-Guiard des Vertus, was a portrait painter and miniaturist from France. She fought for women to have the same opportunity as men to pursue their dreams of becoming great painters.
Labille-Guiard was one of the first female members of the Royal Academy and the first female artist to be granted permission to open a studio in the Louvre for her students.
Miniatures, pastels, and oil paintings became Labille-forte. Guiard's Due to the traditions of the 18th century, which mandated that masters (mostly male) should not take on female pupils, nothing is known about her education. Women were seen to be incapable of following instructions alongside men at the time.
Labille-Guiard studied miniature painting with oil painter François-Élie Vincent during her teens, and her early work was displayed at the Académie de Saint-Luc. She worked as an apprentice with Quentin de la Tour, a pastel artist, until 1774.
Self-Portrait with Two Pupils by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard
Adélade Labille-Self-Portrait Guiard's with Two Pupils, Marie-Gabrielle Capet and Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond is a 1785 self-portrait painting of the artist with two of her pupils, Marie-Gabrielle Capet and Marie-Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond.
It is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection. Adélade Labille-Guiard, Marie-Gabrielle Capet, and Marie-Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond are depicted in the piece.
The work was allegedly intended for the Académie Royale. Labille-Guiard hoped to join the Académie Royale, but at the time, the Académie Royale only accepted four female new members per year.
Two female students, for example, suggested that more women should be admitted to the Académie Royale. The artwork has been used as a book cover and is a common picture in many art histories. It is thought to be the first known image of a female painter with female pupils.
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Blanche Hoschedé Monet
Blanche Hoschedé was a French painter who was Claude Monet's stepdaughter and daughter-in-law. Blanche Hoschedé, the second daughter of Ernest and Alice Hoschedé, was born in Paris. Ernest was a Parisian businessman and department store magnate.
He was an early fan of Claude Monet and amassed a large collection of impressionist paintings. Blanche began painting at the age of eleven and developed a close friendship with Claude Monet, the only kid in the Hoschedé-Monet household to be interested in art.
She went to both his and Édouard Manet's studios. She was Monet's helper and lone student by the age of 17, often painting en Plein air alongside him, painting the same subject with the same colors.
The Weeping Willows on the Lily Pond at Giverny by Blanche Hoschedé Monet
We see Claude Monet's flower garden depiction of his home garden in Giverny in this painting. For the first time, Monet was able to spend his money on his own home and garden because he had amassed some riches. It would produce a gorgeous and one-of-a-kind property with the most interesting garden.
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Anne Vallayer-Coster was a well-known 18th-century French still-life painter. She rose to prominence early in her career, when she was accepted into the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture at the age of twenty-six. Despite still life painting's low standing at the time, Vallayer-highly Coster's developed talents, particularly in the portrayal of flowers, quickly drew the attention of patrons and other artists.
Her "precocious talent and great reviews" drew the attention of the court, where Vallayer-paintings Coster's piqued Marie Antoinette's curiosity. Her life was dedicated to being discreet, respectable, and hardworking. She escaped the horrors of the Reign of Terror, but her reputation suffered as the French monarchs, her principal benefactors fell.
She painted portraits and genre paintings in addition to still lifes, but her success as a figure painter was limited due to the constraints enforced on women at the period.
Portrait of a Violinist by Anne Vallayer-Coster
Portrait of a Violinist is a 1773 oil on canvas painting in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm by the French artist Anne Vallayer-Coster. This picture depicts a seated woman playing a violin-like instrument while bending over a music book.
Vallayer did not marry until 1781, thus he was most likely still working with family members at the time this was painted.
The woman in the picture could be one of Vallayer's sisters, according to Vallayer scholar Marianne Roland-Michel, because Vallayer's rare portraits tended to be of her inner circle. However, it is uncertain if her sisters were also musicians.
Vallayer was accepted into the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1770 based on her still life paintings, several of which are preserved in the Louvre's possession, including a still life of musical instruments with a violin that looks similar.
The violin-like piece has six strings and frets, which is more representative of the viol family, and is similar to a viola da braccio, therefore it is not a traditional violin, despite the title of the painting.
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Henrietta de Beaulieu Dering Johnston was a pastelist who worked in the English colonies for the first time. Many of Johnston's portraits are strikingly similar to those of Sir Godfrey Kneller, who was popular in the United Kingdom and the colonies at the time.
Her pastels from Ireland are drawn in rich earth tones, whereas those during her time in South Carolina are lighter and smaller, owing to the rarity of her pigments, which had to be imported.
The sitters in the Irish pastels, which show the most level of detail of all her works, are depicted at three-quarter length, as are the sitters in the oldest of her Carolina pastels. The female figures in Johnston's paintings are frequently represented in chemises, while the male ones are mostly depicted in street clothing, with some of the latter donning armor.
Anna Cuyler by Henrietta Johnston
Anna Cuyler was born in Albany in November 1685, the first of Johannes and Elsie Ten Broeck Cuyler's twelve children. Her father was a well-known businessman and former mayor of Albany. Anna Cuyler Van Schaick Albany's mother was the daughter of one of the city's founders.
She was raised in the second ward home of a successful businessman and officeholder, in a large family. She would have been one of her father's six daughters and two sons, according to his bequest, written in 1736. In 1742, her brother was elected mayor of Albany.
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Rosa Bonheur, originally Marie-Rosalie Bonheur, was a French realist painter and sculptor who specialized in animals. Bonheur was largely regarded as the nineteenth century's most famous female painter.
Bonheur was an outspoken lesbian. She was in a relationship with American painter Anna Elizabeth Klumpke after living with her companion Nathalie Micas for nearly 40 years until Micas' death.
The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur
Merchants selling horses at the horse market on the Boulevard de l'Hôpital in Paris are seen in the artwork. The infamous Salpêtrière hospital can be seen in the backdrop to the left. When it was first shown at the Paris Salon in May 1853, the reviewers admired the artwork.
Several others remarked on how manly the piece was. Bonheur based The Horse Fair on a series of sketches she drew at the Paris horse market of Percherons and other plow horses.
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Marie Bracquemond was a French Impressionist painter who, along with Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, was dubbed "le tres grandes dames" of Impressionism by Gustave Geffroy in 1894. Marie Quivoron was born in Argenton, Brittany, in the year 1840. Her background sets her apart from the other Impressionist women.
In 1879, 1880, and 1886, Marie Bracquemond took part in Impressionist exhibitions. Some of her works were featured in the La Vie Moderne in 1879 and 1880. She showed five works at the Dudley Gallery in London in 1881. Many of her most well-known works were created in her Sèvres garden.
On the Terrace at Sèvres by Marie Bracquemond
This was painted in the yard of Bracquemond's residence in Sèvres, a Paris suburb. It includes a self-portrait on the left, her younger sister, Louise Quivoron, on the right, and Henri Fantin-Latour, a still-life and portrait artist.
Bracquemond's sister was her roommate at the time and appears in many of her works. Bracquemond spent the majority of her time at home, painting the bulk of her pieces in her garden.
Her most well-known works depict sceneries from the outdoors. She created sketches and studies of her work before painting the final version on the canvas, although she painted in Plein air.
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Sonia Delaunay was a French artist who worked in Paris for the majority of her career. Before coming to France and developing her career to include fabric, fashion, and set design, she had formal training in Russia and Germany. Delaunay was a significant player in the Parisian avant-garde and a multi-disciplinary abstract artist.
She co-founded the Simultanism movement with her husband, Robert Delaunay. Her investigation of color interaction has resulted in a sense of depth and movement across her body of work. With her partner Robert Delaunay and others, she founded the art style known for its use of bright colors and geometric patterns.
In 1964, she became the first surviving female artist to have a comprehensive show at the Louvre, and in 1975, she was appointed a French Legion of Honor officer. Her modern design work includes geometric abstraction, as well as the use of furniture, fabrics, wall panels, and clothes in her art practice.
Le Bal Bullier by Sonia Delaunay
Le Bal Bullier It was painted in 1913 and was inspired by the early 1910s tango craze that swept over Paris. Sonia used to sketch the dancers who appear in this artwork at the Bal Bullier ballroom in Paris.
The dancers flow over the picture, which is 12 feet long. It's frequently used as an example of Orphism's color theory, which pits primary colors against secondary colors.
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Marie-Guillemine Benoist, a French neoclassical, historical, and genre painter, also known as Marie-Guillemine de Laville-Leroux. S he was the daughter of a public official. Her artistic studies began in 1781 with Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and she and her sister Marie-Élisabeth Laville-Leroux joined Jacques-Louis David's atelier in 1786.
Benoist debuted at the Paris Salon in 1791, presenting her mythology-inspired painting Psyché faisant des adieux à sa family. By 1795, her work had shifted toward history painting, thanks to the influence of Jacques-Louis David.
Elisa Bonaparte by Marie-Guillemine Benoist
Maria Anna Baciocchi Levoy, commonly known as Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi Levoy, was a French imperial princess and Napoleon Bonaparte's sister. By her brother's appointment, she was Princess of Lucca and Piombino, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, and Countess of Compignano.
She was Napoleon's only sister with political clout. Her harsh tongue made their relationship tense at times. She was a huge supporter of the arts, especially theater, and fostered them throughout the areas she controlled.
Camille Claudel is a French sculptor who achieved international fame. She met Auguste Rodin when she was 18 years old and began working in his studio that same year. For her to be fully vindicated, it would take decades after her death for some of Rodin's work to be correctly attributed to her own hand.
The Mature Age by Camille Claudel
Some have speculated that Claudel's father, the diplomat and writer Louis-Prosper Claudel, served as an inspiration for the sculpture's depiction of a middle-aged man.
While Claudel is known for various sculptures, her strong and emotionally resonant figures are what have brought her the most recognition and admiration. Claudel's skill as a sculptor and her ability to portray emotion and character via her art are on full display in The Mature Age.
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