Bracquemond, Marie (1840–1916)

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Bracquemond, Marie (1840–1916)

French impressionist painter. Born Marie Quivoron in 1840, at Argenton, Brittany; died in 1916; studied painting with M. Wassor; married Felix Bracquemond (an engraver), in 1869.

While some of the Impressionists were born into the prosperous society class of France, this was not so in the case of Marie Bracquemond. She was born Marie Quivoron in 1840, at Argenton, Brittany, to poor parents. Her father died shortly after her birth, and her mother remarried; the family then moved about Europe for a dozen years before settling in Etampes, south of Paris. Marie began to study painting with M. Wassor and often spent the summers painting in the countryside. In 1857, she made her first submission to the Salon, a drawing of her mother, her sister, and Wassor. Her confidence at a young age in her emerging talent was borne out by the acceptance of her work by the Salon. Through a friend of the family's, Marie was introduced to Ingres, and she has sometimes been characterized as a "student of Ingres." In fact, her letters indicate that while she admired Ingres' work, she found the man himself distasteful and did not pursue his instruction, nor follow his advice. It was her goal, she wrote, to "work at painting, not to paint some flowers, but to express those feelings that art inspires in me."

While working as a copyist at the Louvre, Marie met Felix Bracquemond, the engraver, whom she married in 1869. By 1877, Marie was beginning to follow the same pattern as many of the other Impressionists, working outdoors and intensifying the colors in her palette. She took part in the 1879 Impressionist exhibition, although the works she exhibited were drawn from her work in design for the Haviland studio. More representative of her style as an artist were the three paintings of hers included in the 1880 Impressionist exhibition, among them The Woman in White. This was a portrait of her sister Louise , her closest friend and staunchest supporter throughout her life. She also exhibited at the 1886 Impressionist exhibition, perhaps her last concerted effort to advance her career in the face of her husband's growing disapproval.

Her work showed the typical Impressionist fascination with the effect of sunlight on color, evident for example in Tea Time, The Three Graces, and The Woman in White (all 1880), but she was perhaps uniquely skilled in the exploration of the effects of warm interior light. In Under the Lamp (1887), her subtle exploration of the effects of light on objects echoes Vermeer. In 1919, a retrospective exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim Jeune displayed 156 of her works, most of which are no longer on public display anywhere.

The career of Marie Bracquemond is stark evidence of the impact marriage could have on the aspirations of a female artist in the 19th century. Rather than marrying after becoming an established artist, as Berthe Morisot did, she married early in her career, with disastrous results. Felix Bracquemond was himself considered a secondary figure in the Impressionist circle (despite the fact that he opposed their approach to art), and, as his wife, Marie was never considered more than tertiary. Additionally, he relentlessly belittled and criticized her work, until by 1890 Marie virtually ceased to paint. The Impressionist movement thus lost a very talented proponent, though they hardly seemed to notice. She died in 1916. Marie Bracquemond continued to be a largely ignored figure until the late 20th century, and she remains a sad example of a brilliant capacity for artistic expression stifled.

sources:

Bouillon, Jean-Paul, and Elizabeth Kane. "Marie Bracquemond," in Women's Art Journal. Vol. 5, no. 2. Fall 1984–Winter 1985, pp. 21–27.

William MacKenzie , University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada