Marie Guilhelmine Benoist

 

Artist Biography:

Marie-Guilhelmine Benoist was born in 1768. A woman of aristocratic lineage, Benoist was educated by Élisabeth Vigée Lebrun in 1781 and at Jacques-Louis David's atelier in 1786. Benoist belonged to a small elite circle of professional women painters that included, among others, Anne Vallayer-Coster, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Marguerite Gérard, Angélique Mongez, and Adélaide Labille-Guiard. In 1791, she exhibited her work for the first time in the Salon de Paris with her now-famous, mythology-inspired painting Psyché Faisant Ses Adieux à Sa Famille. In 1800, six years after slavery had been abolished, Benoist exhibited Portrait d'une Négresse in the Salon, whereupon she became a symbol for women's emancipation and black people's rights. The painting was acquired by Louis XVIII for France in 1818. In 1804, Benoist was awarded a Golden Medal in the Salon and received an annual government allowance. She inaugurated an atelier for women and Napoléon Bonaparte himself commissioned her to paint for him. She died in 1826.

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