b. 1755, Paris; d. 1842, Paris
The most famous female painter of the eighteenth century, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun studied with her father, Louis Vigée, but was equally influenced by her contemporaries. A prolific artist with more than 800 works attributed to her, she began painting portraits professionally in her teens and at nineteen gained entrance to the Académie de Saint-Luc. In 1776, she married the art dealer Jacques Lebrun. Summoned to Versailles in 1779 to paint Marie Antoinette, she became painter and friend to the queen. In 1783, backed by an official order from Louis XVI, Vigée-Lebrun was accepted as a member of France's Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture as a painter of historical allegory, a category typically dominated by men. At the outbreak of the French Revolution, Vigée-Lebrun fled to Italy and then traveled to Vienna, Berlin, Saint Petersburg, Dresden, and London, finding critical acclaim and aristocratic clientele in nearly every city. She returned to Paris in 1805.