Marie Bracquemond

1840Landunvez, France | 1916Sèvres, France

French painter, ceramicist, illustrator and engraver.

Born into a relatively modest family, Marie Bracquemond, née Quivoron, was an Impressionist artist who distinguished herself through the diversity of her body of work. M. Bracquemond initially studied in Étampes in the 1850s, before receiving advice from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). In the 1860s she furthered her education with painters Désiré François Laugée (1823-1896), Émile Signol (1804-1892) and Hugues Merle (1822-1881). Between 1859 and 1875 she began working professionally as a painter – first under her mother’s name, Pasquiou or Pasquiou-Quivoron – and exhibited portraits and scenes inspired by the Middle Ages and literature at the Salon. Her work as a copyist and drawing teacher for the city of Paris earned her enough to support herself, her mother and her half-sister.
In 1869 she married engraver and ceramicist Félix Bracquemond (1833-1914), whom she met at the Louvre. The marriage would have a defining influence on her career. Between 1872 and 1881 she took advantage of her painting skills to work under his direction at the Atelier d’Auteuil and paint new ceramic designs for the Haviland manufacture. She also created a monumental ceramic panel for the 1878 World’s Fair, based on an allegorical subject, Les Muses des arts (The muses of the arts), today lost. She used motifs inspired by modern life in her vases and plates, which she later developed in drawings for the press (for the magazine La Vie moderne from 1879 to 1886) and in her paintings of female figures in outdoor sceneries. Because of her limited access to models, the artist used the frequent opportunity she had of depicting her sister in her garden in Sèvres to study lighting effects, as in La Dame en blanc [(Lady in White].

In 1879, 1880 and 1886, M. Bracquemond participated in Impressionist exhibitions, most likely at the invitation of Edgar Degas (1834-1917). On these occasions, she was able to show the full diversity of her artistry (preparatory sketches for her Muses, glazed earthenware, paintings and watercolours), but did not exhibit the works that were most similar in technique and colour to those of other artists in the group (Sur la terrasse, à Sèvres [On the terrace at Sèvres], 1880). In this respect, she chose to present the preparatory drawings for her Trois Grâces (Three Graces, c. 1880) instead of the oil painting itself in 1886. It seems that F. Bracquemond disapproved of his wife’s stylistic evolution at the time.
M. Bracquemond, who took part in the Black and White exhibition at the Dudley Gallery, London, in 1881, focused her work increasingly on original etchings. In 1890, she exhibited with the French Society of Painters-Etchers at Galerie Durand-Ruel. Her etched self-portrait caught the attention of Henri Beraldi, a writer specialised in etchings. In 1893, on the occasion of her second exhibition, she presented two etchings at the Woman’s Building of the Chicago World’s Fair. From then on she put an abrupt end to her career in the public eye and would only practice painting and watercolour privately.

In 1919, three years after M. Bracquemond’s death, her only child, Pierre Bracquemond (1870-1926), organised a retrospective of fifty-seven of her works at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. Gustave Geffroy, who prefaced the catalogue, had devoted a chapter of his Histoire de l’impressionnisme to her in 1894. While M. Bracquemond remained in her husband’s shadow during her lifetime and was later mostly forgotten, some studies and exhibitions in the past decades have drawn further attention to her work. In 2019 the Musée d’Orsay showed her drawings and watercolours in the exhibition Femmes, art et pouvoir. Other public collections hold some of her works, in Paris (Petit Palais, Bibliothèque Nationale de France), other French cities (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen; Musée Adrien Dubouché, Limoges; Musée Fabre, Montpellier), and abroad (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Art Institute of Chicago, among others).

Ludivine Fortier

Translated from French by Lucy Pons.

Publication made in partnership with musée d’Orsay.
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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