Victoria Dubourg

1840Paris, France | 1926Buré, France

French painter.

While Victoria Dubourg was often presented as “Fantin’s most perfect student” and “a true collaborator” (Le Bulletin de la vie artistique, 15 October 1926), she was also described as a “talented painter” (musée de Grenoble, Catalogue, 1911) who in fact started painting prior to meeting Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) in 1869 and marrying him in 1876.
The daughter of a French teacher, she spent part of her childhood in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, where she studied at the Staedel Institute before teaching drawing at the Institute of Mary. Upon returning to France in 1865 she obtained a copyist card at the Louvre. In 1866, at the recommendation of Gustave Chaix d’Est-Ange, vice-president of the State Council and president of its public works and fine arts department, she was commissioned for a copy of The Virgin, the Child Jesus and Saint Martina (c. 1643) by Pierre de Cortone (1596-1669) and, later, of Pilgrims at Emmaus (c. 1530) by Titian (c. 1488-1576).

V. Dubourg’s first well-known painting is a still life from 1861. Between 1868 and 1902 she exhibited fifty-three works at the Salon des Artistes Français independently from any tutor. She received an honourable mention in 1894 and a third-class medal in 1895. She participated in exhibitions organised by the Amis des Arts society in Pau, exhibited seven times at the Royal Academy in London between 1882 and 1896, and occasionally showed her works at Society of British Artists shows between 1882 and 1899. In 1908 her works were featured at the International Industrial Exposition in Toulouse.
Most of her works were still lifes and were well received by the critics: “Her canvases are seemingly modest, but the flowers in them talk and breathe, far outdistancing the rest of the horticultural works at ordinary exhibits” (Arsène Alexandre, “Histoire sommaire des femmes artistes”, Comoedia, 12 February 1910, p. 3). V. Dubourg also painted a few landscapes and indoor scenes (Le Jardin de Buré [The garden at Buré], Musée de Grenoble, and L’Atelier de Fantin-Latour [Fantin-Latour’s studio], held by the Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle in Alençon), as well as some portraits (Portrait de Mlle S. B… in 1869; Portrait de Mlle C. D…, her sister, in 1870; and a pastel Portrait de Mme E. D. in 1887). Two statuettes inspired by antiquity in the collections of the Musée de Grenoble are also attributed to her. Her last known piece, a still life of a flower vase, is dated 1916. The French state acquired several of her canvases (Fleurs et fruits[Flowers and fruit] in 1872 and Panier de fleurs [Basket of flowers] in 1895), some of which were also kept in private collections such as those of Émile Duranty and Baron Alphonse de Rothschild’s, who donated Fleurs (Flowers) to the Musée de Nîmes.

V. Dubourg befriended Édouard Manet (1832-1883) in the 1860s – he went on to be H. Fantin-Latour’s best man at their wedding. On Mondays the couple entertained close friends in their Parisian apartment located above H. Fantin-Latour’s studio. During these soirées, V. Dubourg read texts that she had translated from English (art and book reviews) and German (Hegel, Schopenhauer, etc.). The two artists spent the summers in Buré in the French department of Orne, but abstained from painting outdoors.

After her husband’s death, V. Dubourg helped organise the retrospective exhibition devoted to his career at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1906 and designed the catalogue raisonné of his works, which was published in 1911. She gave his Nature morte dite “de fiançailles” (Still life [The engagement], 1869) to the Musée de Grenoble and La Famille Dubourg [The Dubourg family, 1878] to the Musée du Luxembourg.
On 27 July 1913 she was mentioned by Arsène Alexandre in Le Figaro as “one of the most important women artists of today”, alongside Marie Cazin (1844-1924), Charlotte Besnard (1854-1931), Angèle Delasalle (1867-1939) and Virginie Demont-Breton (1859-1935). She was made Knight of the Legion of Honour by Léonce Bénédite in 1920, the same year as Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). Her participation in the San Francisco World’s Fair in 1915, during World War I, was considered an exceptional service rendered to the nation. In 1989 Elizabeth Kane retraced the artist’s life in her article “Victoria Dubourg: The other Fantin-Latour”, published in the autumn 1988-winter 1989 issue of the Woman’s Art Journal. There is still much to be discovered and brought to light about V. Dubourg’s work and its reception.

Mathilde Leïchlé

Translated from French by Lucy Pons.

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

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