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In her 12 exile years traveling across Europe, Vigée Lebrun met and painted the portraits of just about every prominent figure in Europe and Russia. Thus exile only increasing her fame and helped her compile an even larger financial fortune. During her travels she became a member of the Academies of Florence, Rome, Bologna, St Petersburg and Berlin. She became an international star, one of the most in demand portrait artists of her time. She was particularly popular in Russia, where she painted over 150 portraits.
This self portrait for the Hermitage may be the last painting Vigée Lebrun completed in Russia. She portrayed herself her painting a portrait of Grand Duke Alenandr Pavlovich's wife, Elizabeth Alekseyevna. The work was greatly admired, and as a result, Vigée Lebrun was given the title of "honorary free associate" of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts
Ironically, art historians have generally praised the works of her rival Adelaide Labille-Guiard, especially praising her work helping female artists and generally supporting the Revolution. Yet Labille-Guiard always painted herself as a gorgeously dressed notable. There is not in her whole body of work a picture which approaches this clear depiction of a professional woman artist at work. It is charming to see Vigée Lebrun in working dress, glancing up as if momentarily interrupted in her serious work.
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