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Memoirs of Madame Vigee-Lebrun (Illustrated Edition) (Dodo Press) Paperback – February 26, 2010


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Memoirs of Madame Vigee-Lebrun (Illustrated Edition) (Dodo Press) + Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun: The Odyssey of an Artist in an Age of Revolution + The Exceptional Woman: Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dodo Press (February 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409979156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409979159
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 8.9 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,591,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This spellbinding first-person narrative, a reissue of the 1903 edition, has all the elements of a successful novel: its charismatic heroine (1756-1842) is an eminent and exceptionally productive portrait painter on intimate terms with the French royal family at the dawn of the Revolution; leaving behind a ne'er-do-well husband (whom she had romantically and foolishly married in secret) as well as a coterie of artists, she flees the Terror and supports her daughter and herself by painting the nobility in the capitals of Europe. Vigee Lebrun's painterly talent for observation results in an irresistible (and nearly always admiring) account of historic figures at an epochal moment. A gifted gossip, she does not stint on anecdotes ("Louis XVIII sang more out of tune than anyone in the whole world. 'How do you think I sing?' he asked me one day. 'Like a prince, Your Highness' "). Although few will share her politics--"The common people of Russia are in general ugly, but . . . they are the best creatures in the world . . . they often reminded me of what someone said about the beginning of the Revolution: 'If their bonds are taken off they will be much more unhappy!' "--fewer still will want to put this book down. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Unfortunately, this is but a reprint of the 1903 abridged, translated version of Vigee Lebrun's Souvenirs de Madame Vigee Le Brun . This first-hand account, written late in life, appeared in three volumes, the first in 1835, the others in 1837. Lebrun was a fine artist primarily known as painter to Marie Antoinette and for having been elected to the French Academy. Thus, her Souvenirs were reprinted, in two volumes, in 1869. The edition under review cuts corners to reprint instead the stilted and even silly version prepared for the English-speaking audience, which came out as one volume bearing more illustrations than this 1989 book. Acquire instead Joseph Baillio's outstanding Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun (Univ. of Washington Pr., 1983).
- Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Goucher Coll., Towson, Md.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By LifeboatB on December 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This memoir by 18th-century French painter Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun (one of only two women admitted to the French Academy at that time) reads like a romance novel (in the best sense)! Follow Madame Vigee-Lebrun as she creates portraits of Marie Antoinette, endures the tribulations of an arranged marriage, flees to Russia to escape the Revolution's guillotine, and returns to paint portraits of (and gossip about) a new court ruled by Napoleon. It's hard to tell how strictly truthful Madame was, but her exciting life makes for a fascinating read, especially for artistic women.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joan E. Johnson on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an artist myself, I was fascinated by Vigee Lebrun's very prolific and successful career. This book does not go into her training or working techniques very much, however it does talk about specific paintings and conditions under which she worked. What was very interesting was her description of the French and Russian aristocracy during the years that lead to their death and destruction. I enjoyed reading about them from the point of view of someone who not only worked with those people, but counted them as close friends.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ANONyMOUSE on March 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book on a whim, and am tremendously happy that I did- It has become a touchstone and a favorite. Mme. Vigee Lebrun's voice is incredible- filled with warmth, humor, charm... her optimism and determination in the face of overwhelming adversity is admirable to say the least (the deaths of family, friends, patrons to the Revolution, the loss of her home, possessions... even her income to gambling-addict husband)... I cannot believe that there are not more books or historical entries amassed to such a phenomenal talent, a remarkable woman!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book Fan on April 23, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just "discovered" Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and bought this translation by Lionel Strachey of her memoirs. Fortunately, I also bought another translation on amazon, "The Memoirs of Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrum, Camden Press, translation by Sian Evans after I read an online review saying how much better this was than this Dodo Press edition. It is! Not only is the Camden Press version the full memoirs (not abridged), but the meaning isn't distorted as it is in this translation. For example, on p. 4, it reads "I had spent one happy year at home when my father fell ill. After two months of suffering all hope of his recovery was abandoned." At first I wondered why she was so happy returning home upon the illness of her father. Also, the translator doesn't include what caused the father's illness, even though his loss was a major event in the artist's life. In the Camden Press version, the description makes more sense, "I had just spent a very happy year in the family home, when my father fell ill. He had accidentally swallowed a fish bone which had become lodged in his stomach. In order to remove it he had to undergo several operations.... ...the wounds festered and after two months of suffering, my fathers condition left little hope of recovery." That's just one of many examples where this book is just slightly off the mark enough to cause confusion. I stopped reading this book when I saw how critical information had been dropped, so if you can't find the Camden Press version, be sure to look for another translation that's not "abridged." Finally, I was looking forward to the images in this Dodo Press "illustrated edition". Unfortunately, none of the images are in color and all are printed on the dull paper used for the text, so they're not very sharp. Finally, there's no information in the captions other than the person depicted so it's not clear which were painted by Vigee-Lebrun, and what year.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
She was there at Versailles when Marie Antoinette was playing 'The Milkmaid.' There when the guillotine was erected in central Paris; - and when Catherine the Great died in her Saint Petersburg's Hermitage Palace. With her paints, brushes and easel she has sent down to us paintings of the 'movers and shakers' of her century.
One of the two ladies elected to the French Academy she was, however, forced to leave Paris at the start of the Revolution.
For the next twelve years she visited the major Courts of Europe, painting mainly beautiful and complimentary female portraits. Always in demand she, of course, had to 'donate' her substantial profits to her husband who remained in Paris.
Writing her memoirs seven years before her death in 1842 she has given us her account of those important events. Eye witness history. Not history composed from archives or history from one hundred years hind sight - she was there.!
While on her travels with coach and horses and pot holed 'roads' she was elected also to the Italian, Austrian and Geneva Art Academies. I really enjoyed this book.
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