Marie Bracquemond (1841 in Morlaix – 1916 in Paris) was a French
Impressionist artist described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of
the "le trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Berthe
Morisot and Mary Cassatt. However, her often omission from books on
women artists indicate the success of her husband, Félix
Bracquemond, in his campaign to thwart her development as an artist.
His objection to her art was not on the basis of gender but on the
style she adopted, Impressionism.
She was born Marie Quivoron in
1840 in Argenton, near Quimper, Brittany. Her background contrasts
sharply with the cultured, prosperous, stable milieu of the other
female Impressionists - Cassatt, Morisot, Gonzalès. She was the
child of an unhappy arranged marriage. Her father, a sea captain,
died shortly after her birth. Her mother quickly remarried to a M.
Pasquiou, and thereafter they led an unsettled existence, moving
from Brittany to the Jura, to Switzerland, and to the Auvergne,
before settling in Étampes, south of Paris. She had one sister,
Louise, born while her family lived at Corrèze, near Ussel, in the
Auvergne, in the ancient abbey of Bonnes-Aigues.
She began lessons in painting in
her teens under the instruction of M. Wasser, "an old painter who
now restored paintings and gave lessons to the young women of the
town". She progressed to such an extent that in 1857 she submitted a
painting of her mother, sister and old teacher posed in the studio
to the Salon which was accepted. She was then introduced to Ingres
who advised her and introduced her to two of his students, Flandrin
and Signol. The critic Philippe Burty referred to her as "one of the
most intelligent pupils in Ingres' studio". She later left Ingres'
studio and began receiving commissions for her work, including one
from the court of Empress Eugenie for a painting of Cervantes in
prison. This evidently pleased, because she was then asked by the
Count de Nieuwerkerke, the director-general of French museums, to
make important copies in the Louvre.
It was while she was copying Old Masters in the Louvre that she was
seen by Félix Bracquemond who fell in love with her. His friend, the
critic Montrosier, arranged an introduction and from then, she and
Félix were inseparable. They were engaged for two years before they
married in 1869, despite her mother's opposition. In 1870 they had
their only child, Pierre. Because of the scarcity of good medical
care during the War of 1870 and the Paris Commune, Bracquemond's
already delicate health deteriorated after her son's birth.
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 faience tile
panels depicting the muses, which were shown at the Universal
Exhibition of 1878. 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 etching which were
shown at the second exhibition of the Society of Painter-Etchers at
the Galeries Durand-Reul 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, and
to her husband's disgust, Monet and Degas became her mentors.
Marie Bracquemond participated in
the Impressionist exhibitions of 1879, 1880, and 1886. In 1879 and
1880, some of her drawings were published in the La Vie Moderne. In
1881, she exhibited five works at the Dudley Gallery in London. Many
of her best-known works were painted in her garden at Sèvres.
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.
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 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. One of her last paintings was The
Artist's Son and Sister in the Garden at Sèvres.
She died in Paris in 1916.
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