The Exceptional Woman: Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art

Paperback | October 24, 1997

byMary D. Sheriff

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Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842) was an enormously successful painter, a favorite portraitist of Marie-Antoinette, and one of the few women accepted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. In accounts of her role as an artist, she was simultaneously flattered as a charming woman and vilified as monstrously unfeminine.

In The Exceptional Woman, Mary D. Sheriff uses Vigée-Lebrun's career to explore the contradictory position of "woman-artist" in the moral, philosophical, professional, and medical debates about women in eighteenth-century France. Paying particular attention to painted and textual self-portraits, Sheriff shows how Vigée-Lebrun's images and memoirs undermined the assumptions about "woman" and the strictures imposed on women.

Engaging ancien-régime philosophy, as well as modern feminism, psychoanalysis, literary theory, and art criticism, Sheriff's interpretations of Vigée-Lebrun's paintings challenge us to rethink the work and the world of this controversial woman artist.

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From Our Editors

In The Exceptional Woman, Mary D. Sheriff uses Vigee-Lebrun's career to explore the contradictory position of "woman-artist" in the moral, philosophical, professional, and medical debates about women in eighteenthcentury France."A court painter to Marie Antoinette, Vigee-Lebrun is a part of the feminist hidden heritage rediscovered in ...

From the Publisher

Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842) was an enormously successful painter, a favorite portraitist of Marie-Antoinette, and one of the few women accepted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. In accounts of her role as an artist, she was simultaneously flattered as a charming woman and vilified as monstrously unfeminine.In The...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 9.25 × 6.5 × 1 inPublished:October 24, 1997Publisher:University Of Chicago Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226752828

ISBN - 13:9780226752822

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
PART ONE- The Anatomy Lessons of Elisabeth Vigèe-Lebrun
1. The Sense and Sex Organs
2. The Mother's Imagination and the Fathers' Tradition
PART TWO- Elisabeth Vigèe-Lebrun in 1783
3. The Law, the Academy, and the Exceptional Woman
4. The Im/modesty of Their Sex: The Woman's Gaze and the Female History Painter
5. The Portrait of the Queen
6. The Portrait of the Artist
PART THREE- Staging Allegory
7. Elisabeth, or Italy
8. Germaine, or Corinne
Epilogue
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Photographic Credits
Index

From Our Editors

In The Exceptional Woman, Mary D. Sheriff uses Vigee-Lebrun's career to explore the contradictory position of "woman-artist" in the moral, philosophical, professional, and medical debates about women in eighteenthcentury France."A court painter to Marie Antoinette, Vigee-Lebrun is a part of the feminist hidden heritage rediscovered in the 1970s. Although she has inspired exhibition catalogs and book chapters since, this is the only recent English-language book devoted to the artist.... Beginning with the notion of professional exceptionality . . . Sheriff reviews specific incidents, other art and literature of the period, and Vigie-Lebrun's portraits". -- Choice"This is a challenging book about an important woman artist who has yet to receive the attention that she deserves.... This is the kind of mature, multifaceted, thoughtful scholarship that women artists have all too rarely inspired in the past, and that I hope will be applied to many more in the future". -- Ann Sutherland Harris, Women's Review of Books