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Bouliar, Marie Geneviève (1762–1825)

Bouliar, Marie Geneviève (1762–1825)

French portraitist. Name variations: Bouliard. Born in Paris, France, in 1762; died at Château d'Arcy (Saône-et-Lire) in 1825; only daughter of a tailor, though she may have been related to artists with similar names; studied with Joseph Siffred Duplessis (1725–1802).

Selected works:

Self-Portrait (1792); Aspasia (1794); Portrait of Chevalier Alexandre-Marie Lenoir (1796); Portrait of Adélaïde Binart (Mme. Alexandre Lenoir) (1796).

Little is known about the life and career of Marie Geneviève Bouliar. Although over 40 paintings and drawings are attributed to her through various records, only ten paintings and one drawing have survived. She may have studied with a number of teachers, but her relationship with Joseph Duplessis, the most celebrated portraitist in Paris during the 1770s and 1780s, is the only one documented. He is named as her teacher in the Livrets de Salon of 1796 and 1798. Whereas his influence is evident in her work, Bouliar's portraits are regarded as simpler and freer in style. According to Anne Sutherland andLinda Nochlin in Women Artists: 1550–1950, Bouliar was "one of those rare practitioners of the genre able to present another human personality without seeming to impose her own."

Bouliar's first recorded work was a portrait of a young woman which was signed and dated 1785. She initially exhibited at the Salon of 1791 and sent work there until 1817. Her most famous painting Aspasia won a Prix d'Encouragement in 1795. Her subject for the portrait, Aspasia , wife of Pericles, and one of the most famous women of 5th-century Athens, is portrayed surrounded with flowers, gazing in a mirror, with her flimsy undergarment falling from her shoulder to expose one breast, an unlikely pose, perhaps, for such a respected woman. The use of classical subjects to advance modern morality was a prevalent practice in France. Sutherland and Nochlin postulate that Bouliar's message is that learning and femininity are not mutually exclusive, thus the painting is a "gentle plea, couched in the most respectable of artistic language, for the equality of women."


Sutherland, Anne, and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists: 1550–1950. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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