Discover the story of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard—a long-ignored artist and feminist of eighteenth-century France—in this imaginative and illuminating biography from an award-winning writer.
Summer in Paris, 1783. The Louvre steps, too hot and no breeze, the air electric with the heady anticipation of a coming storm: the year’s Royal Salon. Bewigged and powdered Parisians mill amid pigeons, dogs, and detritus; food and flower sellers; pamphleteers and propagandists. Men and women of every estate (clergy, nobles, commoners) are united under art: to love it, to despise it, to gossip endlessly about it.
Exhibiting at the Royal Salon was not for the faint of heart, and it was never intended for women.
Enter Adélaïde Labille-Guiard . . .
Born in Paris in 1749, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard rose from shopkeeper’s daughter to an official portraitist of the royal court—only to have her achievements reduced to ash by the French Revolution. While she defied societal barriers to become a member of the exclusive Académie Royale and a mentor for other ambitious women painters, she left behind few writings, and her legacy was long overshadowed by celebrated portraitist and memoirist Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun.
But Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s story lives on. In this engaging biography, Bridget Quinn applies her insightful interpretation of art history to Labille-Guiard’s life. She offers a fascinating new perspective on the artist’s feminism, her sexuality, and her vision of the world. Quinn expertly blends close analyses of paintings with broader context about the era and inserts delicately fictionalized interpersonal scenes that fill the gaps in the historical record. This is a compelling and inspiring look at an artist too long overlooked.
INSPIRING HISTORICAL NONFICTION: Despite numerous setbacks, Labille-Guiard built a legacy as an accomplished royal portraitist and a mentor to other young women artists of her era. This tale of solidarity, self-belief, and true passion for painting is sure to inspire contemporary creatives and women today.
Bridget Quinn is a writer, art historian, and critic. She is the author of the award-winning Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) and She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next. A graduate of New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts and a regular contributor to the arts magazine Hyperallergic, Quinn is a sought-after speaker on women and art. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.
Bridget Quinn - photo credit Amy Perl