Benoist, Marie (1768–1826)

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Benoist, Marie (1768–1826)

French painter. Name variations: Comtesse Benoist. Born Marie Guillemine (or Guilhelmine) Lerouix de

la Ville in 1768 in Paris, France; died in 1826 in Paris, France; daughter of an administrative official; student of Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun,Adelaide Labille-Guiard , and Jacques Louis David; married Pierre Vincent Benoist, in 1793.

Selected paintings:

Innocence between Virtue and Vice (1790); The Farewell of Psyche; Portrait of a Negress (1800).

Encouraged by her father, Marie Benoist was only about 13 or 14 when she began studying painting with Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun , who influenced her early pastel portraits. While Vigée-Lebrun's studio was under reconstruction, Benoist was placed under the tutelage of the great Neoclassical painter Jacques Louis David, despite the king's decree that forbade young women artists to be trained at the Louvre. David's influence moved Benoist into the more linear and brilliant history paintings and formal portraits, exhibited at the Salon of 1791, that would dominate the rest of her career.

In 1793, she married royalist Pierre Vincent Benoist, whose anti-Revolutionary activities occasionally threatened their lives and prevented Benoist from exhibiting in the Salon of 1793. In 1800, she painted her best-known work Portrait of a Negress, which is said to have been inspired by the 1794 decree abolishing slavery. This painting established her reputation and was later acquired by Louis XVIII.

Around 1804, Benoist was officially commissioned to paint Napoleon's portrait for the Palais de Justice at Ghent, for which she received a gold medal. She also received an annual stipend from the government for producing official portraits of the emperor's family. Toward the end of her career, she began painting the sentimental scenes of family life that were becoming popular with the middle class. There is speculation that she may have begun a studio for women around this time, but details of this venture are unknown. At the height of her fame, Benoist was forced to stop participating in public exhibitions when her husband was appointed to a position in the Restoration government. She died in Paris in 1826.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts