Adélaïde Labille-Guiard

French, 1749-1803

The three women on this canvas represent education. The two on the left are students; on the right Adelaide looks at us. Adelaide fought to gain an education that was comparable to that of her male colleagues. After she gained skills that were considered off-limits to women, such as life drawing and oil painting, she took on female students in an effort to provide a more extensive training for young women. The look of adoration on her students’ faces reflects their knowledge of the value of such an education, which they understood as an exception and a gift. Adelaide also worked as a portraitist for the French court in the 18th century and she was one of the few women admitted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris. Just when her career was at its apex and she had finished an important commission for a history painting, the French Revolution began. To avoid the guillotine she had to destroy the work, entitled Reception of a Chevalier de Saint-Lazare by Monsieur, Grand Master of the Order. It surely was her most ambitious painting, the culmination of years of study and pushing for the same training and working conditions as men in her profession.

Anne-Marie Passez, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1973), 220–221.

Original Works Referenced

Self-portrait with
Two Pupils
Mademoiselle Marie Gabrelle Capet
and Mademsoiselle Carreaux de Rosmond
1785
New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art