Marie Bracquemond

Marie Bracquemond

1840 - 1916

Marie Bracquemond was a French Impressionist artist. She was one of four notable women in the Impressionist movement, along with Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), and Eva Gonzalès (1847-1883). Bracquemond studied drawing as a child and began showing her work at the Paris Salon when she was still an adolescent. She never underwent formal art training, but she received limited instruction from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) and advice from Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) which contributed to her stylistic approach.

She married noted printmaker Félix Bracquemond (1833-1914), who helped popularize Japanese art in France. Together, they produced ceramic art for Haviland & Co., a manufacturer of Limoges porcelain. Marie's frequent omission from books on artists is sometimes attributed to the efforts of her husband. Although Félix participated with the Impressionist exhibitions, he notably disapproved of the movement at which his wife excelled. Indeed, Pierre Bracquemond, their son, stated that his father was jealous of Marie's work, belittled her ambition, and refused to show her paintings to visitors.

Marie participated in three out of the eight major Impressionist exhibitions, submitting her work to the fourth (1879), fifth (1880), and eighth (1889) group showings. During her lifetime as an artist, Bracquemond produced at least 157 original works, of which only 31 have been located and catalogued in existing collections today, with the rest having disappeared into various private collections without record. Her only two solo exhibitions were held after her death. Some of her most famous works include The Lady in White (1880), On the Terrace at Sèvres (1880), Afternoon Tea (1880), and Under the Lamp (1887).

Félix and Marie Bracquemond worked together at the Haviland studio at Auteuil where her husband had become artistic director. She designed plates for dinner services and executed large tile panels (once known as faience) depicting Les Muses des arts (The muses of the arts), which were shown at the Universal Exhibition of 1878. The work is now considered lost.

She began having paintings accepted for the Salon on a regular basis from 1864. As she found the medium constraining, her husband's efforts to teach her etching were only a qualified success. She nevertheless produced nine etchings that were shown at the second exhibition of the Society of Painter-Etchers at the Galeries Durand-Ruel in 1890. Her husband introduced her to new media and to the artists he admired, as well as older masters such as Chardin. She was especially attracted to the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens. Between 1887 and 1890, under the influence of the Impressionists, Bracquemond's style began to change. Her canvases grew larger and her colours intensified. She moved out of doors (part of a movement that came to be known as plein air), and to her husband's disgust, Monet and Degas became her mentors.

Many of her best-known works were painted outdoors, especially in her garden at Sèvres. One of her last paintings was The Artist's Son and Sister in the Garden at Sèvres. Bracquemond participated in the Impressionist exhibitions of 1879, 1880, and 1886. In 1879 and 1880, some of her drawings were published in La Vie Moderne. In 1881, she exhibited five works at the Dudley Gallery in London.

In 1886, Félix Bracquemond met Gauguin through Sisley and brought the impoverished artist home. Gauguin had a decisive influence on Marie Bracquemond and, in particular, he taught her how to prepare her canvas in order to achieve the intense tones she now desired.

Unlike many of her Impressionist contemporaries, Bracquemond spent a great deal of effort planning her pieces. Even though many of her works have a spontaneous feel, she prepared in a traditional way through sketches and drawings. Although she was overshadowed by her well-known husband, the work of the reclusive Marie Bracquemond is considered to have been closer to the ideals of Impressionism. According to their son Pierre, Félix Bracquemond was often resentful of his wife, brusquely rejecting her critique of his work, and refusing to show her paintings to visitors. In an unpublished manuscript written by Pierre about his parents' life, he shares that his father "seldom showed her work to their friends. When he did compliment her, it was in private. Therefore, none of their artists friends paid attention to her works or spoke of her efforts, and when she revealed hopes for success, Félix put her ambition down to 'incurable vanity.'" In 1890, Marie Bracquemond, worn out by the continual household friction and discouraged by lack of interest in her work, abandoned her painting except for a few private works.

She remained a staunch defender of Impressionism throughout her life, even when she was not actively painting. In defense of the style to one of her husband's many attacks on her art, she said, "Impressionism has produced... not only a new, but a very useful way of looking at things. It is as though all at once a window opens and the sun and air enter your house in torrents."

Text courtesy of Wikipedia, 2023