Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Painting of Memory

As we approach what would have been my mother in law's 92nd birthday, I wanted to tell a little story.

I'm not big into art history, but it's interesting that I remember two people who were important to me through artwork I saw in their houses.   One of them was my mother inlaw.

The other day, one of my spouse's cousins texted me a photo with a short story of how she had taken it.  I recognized the photo right away.  It was a framed painting (a print, probably - yes, I'm that non-knowledgeable) that hung in my mother in law's house. 

The painting the cousin sent me a picture of was of a woman and a girl, arms wrapped around each other.  It was obvious they were mother and daughter and loved each other very much.

I was first in my future mother in law's home back in 1971 and I remember the painting being there.  My mother inlaw had a very different taste in art than I do and I never asked her to identify it for me.

But the cousin, who lives in the Western United States, had.  She took a picture of my mother in law's print on one of her visits out East to visit her father, who lives in New England.  She asked about it, but all she could remember was a name "LeBron" (she thought).  She tried researching it with no luck.

As we texted back and forth, she suddenly found the painting online. It was a Mme. Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun self portrait with her daughter Julie, painted in 1789. To be more accurate, Madame Vigée-Le Brun and her daughter, Jeanne-Lucie-Louise, known as Julie , who lived from 1780 to 1819.  

Sad - like so many of that time, the daughter died young.

The amazing thing?  Mme. Vigée-Le Brun was a woman.  Talented female painters didn't get to be famous back then.  And, that painting hangs in the Louvre, along with seven other paintings.

The painting was a "revolutionary confiscation" from a manwhich may have been part of this.

Although I believe the painting is in the common domain in the United States, I don't want to get into trouble by publishing a copy of it, but you can find it here, along with an art history analysis.

And here is a video I found if you are interested, which I have not looked at.

Mme. Le Brun also has at least one painting hanging in New York City's Metropolitan museum of art.

History hanging on a Eastern United States wall, and I never knew it.

I told my spouse's cousin that her picture made my night, and it did.  I never even knew what I was looking at.

Is there any fine art that brings back memories for you?


  1. What a lovely story, Alana. Thank you for sharing it!
    Carol C

  2. I clicked on "find it here" and when I read the discussion about Mme Le Brun's Greek dress, I immediately thought of Delacroix's painting "Liberty Leads the Way." However, Mme Le Brun painted her self-portrait in 1789, when the French Revolution was going on, and Delacroix didn't paint "Liberty" until 1830. I guess I'd better click some more, but I'd hoped to get some other stuff done this morning. :-)

  3. In answer to your question, I have two: one is "Aristide Bruant dans son Cabaret" by Toulouse-Lautrec. My aunt gave me an old Jim Beam bottle from one Christmas when their bottles had works of art on them, and that was the painting. The second is "The Laughing Cavalier" by Frans Hals. My boss accused me of having a "cavalier" attitude shortly before I left the company, and while Mary and I were wandering around an antique store we saw a reproduction someone had made of that painting. I was going to buy it and give it to him...

  4. A nice memory! I enjoy research, and the hunt of artists and signatures online! The paintings that are connected to memories from my grandmother's are now hanging in my house. Also, my father's paintings. Although, when I evacuated during the summer (just one day) I took a $1.75 thrift store painting with me!

  5. What a beautiful painting. When I think of the wonderful female artists that have been overlooked for centuries. So nice that Vigee-Le Brun got some recognition.

  6. Thanks for sharing that story with us, Alana. It makes me realize that I have a painting story too, which is worth a blog post. Take care, Beth

  7. When I see dates like 1780-1819, I can't help but think of those born in 1980 would have just been 39 last year. The mind boggles.

    1. Speaking of 39, MY mind boggles that my son will be 39 this month!

  8. It's in the public domain.,_Julie_-_WGA25082.jpg

    It's a beautiful story and a beautiful painting.

  9. Love the story & the painting. SO pretty!

  10. I got a dvd from library about woman artist and there history. It was quite interesting.
    Stay Safe and Coffee is on


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