Abbéma, Louise (1858–1927)

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Abbéma, Louise (1858–1927)

French painter. Name variations: Abbema.

Like her contemporary Rosa Bonheur , Louise Abbéma donned the clothes of a man. Unlike Bonheur, who used the guise to escape notice, Abbéma dressed as a captain of the dragoons to draw attention. Notes Germaine Greer in Obstacle Race, Abbéma was "not without talent, as her early Lunch in the Hothouse in the Museum at Pau shows, but she did not develop any further as an artist. Instead she settled for the fashionable limelight that her flamboyant behavior attracted." In 1876, as an 18-year-old painter, Abbéma undertook a portrait of Sarah Bernhardt who was then performing at the Comédie Française. It was the beginning of an intense relationship. Joining Bernhardt's coterie, Abbéma continued executing portraits of the actress until 1922. For her work, Louise Abbéma was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government.


Greer, Germaine. The Obstacle Race. NY: Farrar, Straus, 1979.

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